** Hang Loose Outdoors Weekly Blog **
First off, Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there. None of us would be enjoying this MN opener if it wasn’t for you. We appreciate all your hard work and understand it’s not easy putting up with us. Hope you all had a great Mother’s Day and weekend.
What does the MN Fishing Opener mean to you? Is it the first chance to wet a line for the season? Is it the traditions that come with the opener that make the weekend awesome? Is it spending time with family and friends? Is it setting the hook and having a fresh walleye meal at the end of the day? Whatever it is for you, the MN Fishing Opener is a holiday for us all.
Most of the HLO crew spent the MN opener at the Maki Cabin once again. This has become one of our traditions. Friends and family show up at the cabin sometime on Friday; tell stories, spool lines, play games, and share lots of laughs. On Saturday, most head to Upper Red Lake to set the hook on a few walleyes.
This weekend, the hook setting part got easier and easier as walleye after walleye entered the boat. This was the case for all our boats. The walleyes were hungry and there was no right or wrong thing to do on Red Lake. If you had bait on, you were catching fish. Reports of 100 plus walleyes per boat were the norm on Saturday and again on Sunday. The arms sure got a workout and the laughs never stopped.
The fish fry back at the cabin on Saturday was unbelievable. It was another MN opener we will never forget. The fishing was by far the best most have experienced, the comradery was top notch, and everyone had a blast.
Let’s fast forward to Wednesday really quick and give you all a little report of what can happen and did happen. So you couldn’t go wrong going to Red Lake after all the reports of the weekend’s catching rate on social media, right? That’s what most thought including Brock.
Well, Brock went to Red Lake bright and early Wednesday morning and his report was not similar to the boys from the weekend. Brock struggled to even catch a few fish. This is his report: "The wind was bucking straight out of the west as we headed across the lake to the south fingers the boys reported as being good on opener. We set the Lund in drift mode and all jigged along the rocks with absolutely no action the first hour. As the water calmed, we picked one walleye up here and one there. It was slow. I finally realized why once the seas calmed. The water was extremely stirred up and clarity was just a few inches. You would lose sight of your jig and minnow only a few inches under the surface. As I figured this out, we switched to slip bobbers, but that wasn’t much better. We drove out to a small rock hump 4 miles out into the lake thinking the water would be clearer out there. It was, but only one fish hit the boat out there. One o’clock came and went and we decided to head back to Grand Rapids with the 6 walleyes and 1 crappie we had in the box. Action was not going to pick up until the water settled. I have experienced this before and I’ve always noted not to fish Red Lake after a few steady hard west winds. Being eager to set the hook and not following the weather proved to throw us a curveball. It just goes to show you, “It doesn’t matter if the fish were biting yesterday”.
The AIM Weekend Walleye Series kicks off on Ottertail Lake this coming Sunday. Wish the boys luck.
We are finally shaping up to have a great opener! As you all know, we’ve had a late spring, compared to recent years. We will see some of the spawning areas closed for fishing for the first week or so. Places such as Little Cut Foot on Lake Winni and the Tamarack River on Red Lake will be closed to fishing. If you remember 2013’s late ice out, this year will follow suit.
Walleyes hit their peak spawning when the water temperatures are in the 44-48-degree range. Most bodies of water in the Grand Rapids area will see water temperatures in the low 50s, but we never know what will happen with the weather in the next couple days. A few bodies of water around the area will see water temps in the mid 40’s and those walleyes will just be heading into spawn.
Keep in mind the big females scoot up to spawn, get their business done, and start to migrate back to main lake structures very fast. If you’re looking to target the big females, key in on “bus stops” on the “bus route.” Meaning; if you had to pick a route to swim to spawning grounds and needed to stop to fill up the belly where would that be? Look for any sort of structure differences: this could be a rock pile, sand to rock transitions, or as simple as a small nipple sticking out off a particular piece of structure.
If you’re looking to get fish for a fish fry, the males are usually the first to show up to spawning turf and the last ones to leave. So, stick close as the smaller males will be present. Any sort of green weeds after ice out will bring fresh oxygen to the water which brings in baitfish. Walleyes are hungry critters, especially in pre-spawn, so they’re never far from the bait. Find warm in flows; with any sort of moving water it always brings higher water temps. Baitfish are often attracted to warmer water because smaller invertebrates are often found in faster warming water in the spring time. Also, in most cases, current often leads to prime spawning turf.
As far as tackle goes, a lot of the time we rely on 1/16th to 1/4th oz. jig depending on depth and wind speed. A jig tipped with a shiner, chub, or your favorite plastic will do the trick! (Shiner minnows might be hard to find for opener). If the fish are super spread out, don’t forget your crank-baits! Troll these at 1.2-2.0 MPH. Last but not least, don’t forget to be safe on the water and always wear your lifejacket. Cold water temps reduce the amount of time you can spend in the water before you are at risk of hypothermia. Carry on those MN Fishing Opener traditions. Have fun and good luck!
written by Dylan Maki
Will we have open water for the fishing opener? That is the big question around the area as we push towards the MN opener on May 12th. I made a prediction last week that some of the small lakes around the Grand Rapids area would be ice free by today, May 2. Well, my prediction was both right and wrong. A few small lakes opened up yesterday and some opened up today as I made a short drive around the area this morning enjoying my coffee. Others will open up in the next day or so. The larger lakes are looking scarce and should be off next week. Their should be no worries now.
Where will you be fishing for the opener? Late ice out in 2013 made for an awesome bite on Big Cut Foot Sioux and the gap on Lake Winnibigoshish. Leech Lake is always a sure bet on opener. Upper Red Lake is a great opener destination. The HLO crew has no set plans yet, but you will probably find us on one of the above or possibly a few smaller area lakes. We never know!
I know most are in a crunch now getting those boats ready for the opener. There are plenty of lakes to get out and take a quick spin to make sure if your motor and electonics are working properly. If you need some last minute service, give Ray's Sport and Marine a call (218-326-0353) in Grand Rapids.
We had the opportunity to break in a few of our new Lund boats and Mercury motors this weekend. New motor break in periods are an important subject. The owners manual includes detailed steps to ensure proper break ins so your motor will run at peak performance. Every Mercury motor that we have followed break in directions has never needed service besides the yearly fluid changes.
This is the Engine Break-in Procedure for the Mercury Verado
Remember to check out your owners manual for your particular motor is you have a brand new rig. Following directions will keep you on the water.
The Wolf Brothers fished the Rainy River for sturgeon this weekend. The bite was spotty with all the floating debris from the break up of the Big and Little Fork Rivers last week, but some big fish were still boated. Look for this weekend's bite to be good as the river clears. The Rainy is open all the way to the lake.
For now, good luck getting those boats ready for the MN Fishing Opener. Practice those hook sets!
Blog picture is standing at the boat landing on Prairie Lake on the morning of May 2. Just a few ice sheets remain floating. Wow, did things change fast from last weekend!
The weather here in Grand Rapids, MN has taken a turn for the best. Temperatures in the 60s have felt so so good. Outdoor activities have increased ten fold. Kids are outdoors playing. Baseball fields are opening up. People everywhere are taking a huge breath of fresh air. I think it's safe to say, "Spring is officially here".
I know a lot of you are wondering when the ice will be off the lakes. Well, we are looking better than we did last week. Things are changing FAST. The ice is finally melting and at a quick pace.
The ice fishing season is now over! The last hole for our 2018 season was drilled in the ice this past Monday on a small lake just north of Grand Rapids. This particular lake was just over 100 acres in size. The ice was pulling away from the landing and the top layer was extremely soft. The Eskimo auger flew thru the 20-22 inches of ice like butter. I could kick 6 inches of the top layer away just with my rubber boots. On my way off the ice, early afternoon, was a bit of a struggle, as my small sled bit into the top layer of ice and made for a suction cup of forearm drag.
Please do not venture out onto the ice anymore. We would now call the ice UNSAFE around the Grand Rapids area.
It's time to put that ice fishing gear away and get those boats ready. I guarantee you we will not be ice fishing for the MN fishing opener on May 12th. We will be in boats somewhere.
So lets all say goodbye to the ice!
We talked about getting up to the Rainy River this week and weekend for the last shot at the prespawn hog walleye bite. Well, Colt, Forrest, and Swenson made it up and the bite was awesome. Yes, the weather was chilly and the lines at the boat landings were long, but it was worth it.
Here is Forrest Leitch on the keys to his success:
One of the key factors in our Rainy River success was being able to tell exactly what our baits were doing in the water. How does one know what a jig and plastic are doing 12 feet down and 30 feet behind the boat? You need to be able to feel exactly what your bait is doing.
The river current this weekend was much slower than previous trips, and I could feel this with my JT Outdoor Products 7’1” JTX. At typical jig dragging speeds, I could tell that the tail on my plastic wasn’t thumping hard enough, and that my jig was dredging along bottom instead of ticking and bouncing inches off bottom. We knew since the current wasn’t going fast enough to get our plastics thumping, we had to speed up our dragging speed. Being able to feel my presentation along the bottom helped us dial in the subtleties that ultimately led to our success.
A high-quality fishing rod is more than just a luxury item. It is a tool that, when used effectively, will help you catch more fish.
That is why we use JT Rods. Check them out at their website www.jtodp.com.
The Rainy River walleye season is now closed, but we will focus our attention on giant sturgeon now. Where can you go to catch the biggest fish of your life? Yes, the Rainy River right now! See you all up there!
With all the snow and cold and sniffling, huffing, and puffing about winter hanging around; I want to talk about open water! First off, there is open water up at the Rainy River right now. Well, this weekend the river froze up so boats weren't able to get out of the landings. That sucks for those who planned on making the trip up to chase prespawn hog walleyes. But, if you are able to take time off work this coming week, get up there.
Just because the ice is still three feet thick on area lakes and over four feet on Lake of the Woods doesn't mean the walleyes aren't making their way to their annual spawning grounds. The Rainy River walleye bite should be lights out this week. If you can put up with a little cold, wind, and long lines at Birchdale and Frontier boat landing get up there and scratch the itch. A few of our prostaffers will be up there this week and into the weekend. The season closes Saturday night at midnight, April 14th.
For those of you who can't make it, plan on it next year! The Rainy River walleye run in April is truly an amazing thing.
With open water on the radar, I want to give a huge shout out to Ray's Sport and Marine in Grand Rapids, MN. They recently opened up their new state of the art showroom and store this past March on Hwy 2 East and it is incredible. This place is packed full of Lund and Crestliner boats and Bennington and Lund pontoons. It has everything for open water from boats to electronics, to boat accessories, and everything you need to meet your open water needs. Their service department is state of the art also and they have the knowledge to fix anything and everything. If you haven't checked out the new boat palace, please stop in and do so. Tell them the Hang Loose boys sent you.
I had the opportunity to pick up my new Lund 2075 Pro Guide this weekend and it is truly amazing. I can't wait to get this rig on the water. Ray's did an excellent job rigging this boat and I can't say enough about their awesome customer service, sales staff, and service department. Thank you Ray's Sport and Marine.
Bring on the open water. Cmon peeps. Don't get down on the weather. The snow and ice will melt and we will be soaking in the sun and breaking waves soon.
written by Brock
Manitoba Canada is a great place!
Back from the great white north “Eh”! "Catching lakers, sippin syrup, watching hockey, and learning how to cross check properly."
Catching was a little tough, but fishing was awesome with the Fish Addictions crew. Manitoba’s gorgeous landscape and hospitality exceeded our expectations. We will definitely be back to Bakers Narrows Lodge to tackle the mastodon troots that roam Lake Athapapuskow.
We saw some giant trout on the Marcum cameras, but they just didn't want to play this week. When it comes to targeting trout, especially the giants, the seasonal window when they want to chow is key. With winter still hanging in the air, the big fish weren't very active this week. We caught some good trout and big pike, but just barely scraped the ice berg of what this amzing fishery has to offer. It's hard to get fish to eat when they don't quite want to open their mouths. Congrats to Will Pappenfus on the MEGA trout of the weekend! Will brought a 40 plus inch hog topside.
All in all it was an awesome trip with lots of laughs and tons of memories.
If you want to explore Manitoba, take a peek at Baker's Narrows Lodge for your next vacation. They are open year around and the fishing and hospitalization is top notch.
Don't put the snowmobiles and ice fishing gear away quite yet! Winter is here to stay........ a little longer.
Funky weather! We need some warm temperatures and some melt happening around these parts. Does the weather know what month it is? It's almost April and there is still three feet of ice on the lakes. Besides that, peeps are continuing to keep their plows on their trucks. Snow is falling and storms are predicted again this weekend.
I know the weather can change in a flash, but the long term forecast looks pretty mild with freezing temps at night. How are the lakes gonna open up and when is spring gonna arrive? We all have the same questions, but spring always comes; just give it time.
One sign of spring is seeing boats heading north towards Baudette, Minnesota for the Rainy River walleye run. They are heading up there now. Yes, the river is open and big boats are landing at Birchdale. Reports are fishing is good. We will see what happens this weekend with the snow storm on the way.
Regardless of the weather, it's time to get your boat ready so pull it out. If you are in the market for a new boat, stop down to Ray's Sport and Marine at its new location of Hwy 2 East, and check out the wide selection of boats and pontoons.
We are headed to Manitoba next weekend to chase lake trout and pike with the Fish Addictions crew! Wish us luck, its gonna be an adventure.
We always talk about how busy life is now days especially with kids combined with the random work schedules we all have. When a beautiful day is in the forecast for March, sometimes we just have to drop things where they are and call up the grandparents.
A plan was set last minute this week for a day trip to Lake of the Woods on Saturday. The forecast for Saturday was bright and sunny with a high in the mid 40's and light and variable winds. That was a complete recipe to head north for another day of hog pike.
Randy and Lindsey Topper and Brock and Lexi Anderson enjoyed the comradery on the ice on this beautiful Saturday. Besides getting the truck stuck and a few minor trailer light faults, the day went exceptionally as planned. Fish were caught, food was grilled, and laughs were had.
At the end of the day, we got the truck unstuck and a nice eight pike tally was recorded in the notepad. Here is the tally: 32, 32, 32, 20, 41, 39, 42, 28. Now, that was a good day of fishing right there. Lexi had never experienced hog pike of LOTW, but she has now. She also has a good sunburn on her face and a personal best pike of 39 inches. Who says "no" to sunscreen in March?
Another March Madness trip that will always be remembered with hog pike and good times. Now, we are off to Canada next weekend to chase huge lake trout in Manitoba. Wish us luck. This is gonna be a crazy fun time.
March means so much to this crew. The memories and stories that we have had during this 31 day period over the years is pretty intense. The ice fishing trips that begun as a trial and error kind of thing are now tradition.
Lake of the Woods hog pike started almost 10 years ago. We had no clue what we were doing. Now, we have all the little tricks and we have a more settled down approach into the game. Instead of taking big trips chasing pike and exploring new turf, we like to show our families and friends a little of the action in say a weekend period.
If you have never caught or watched someone catch their personal best northern pike, then March on Lake of the Woods needs to planned. The northern pike management on Lake of the Woods is some of the best in the state and to be able to target them right up until spawn is like the stars have lined up for the angler.
All you need to do is go out and pick a shallow shoreline or bay and set some tip ups out. If the action is minimal, keep on moving a little until you find a good area. Does this seem impossible since LOTW is so huge? Yes, but there are millions of spots too and millions of hog pike. One tip I would give you is target those hog pike on shorelines where there are creeks and ditches within 2 miles. This is where they spawn and the direction they will be heading. Now, just find an area to call yours where they will put the feed bag on before they jump into spawning.
Randy and Lindsey Topper and Shawn and Kristi Matteson did their annual couples weekend on Lake of the Woods this past weekend. Fishing is kind of second when it comes to this trip. Laughs, cards, stories, snacks, drinks, and good times usually come first. If a few hog pike are caught then that's all the better.
Sunday put enormous smiles on everyone's faces as a 41, 42.5, 43, and 44 inch pike were caught and released. Randy, Lindsey, Kristi, and Shawn all caught their personal best pike in one day. Could you call this 'the best pike day ever'? Yep! It's all about putting in your time and you will have a day like this.
-pictured in the top right corner of the blog are the love birds with Kristi's 43 inch gator!
I want to touch on three topics as we push into the month of March which currently holds lots of ice fishing opportunities. All lakes have a ton of ice still and ice fishing is not going away anytime soon. With the nice weather in store we advise you all take advantage of it. Yes, lake conditions are kinda tough right now, but they will improve day by day. We here at Hang Loose Outdoors love the month of March. It flat out means big fish.
Time and time again we talk about targeting huge prespawn pike on Lake of the Woods in March. Things are setting up nicely up there for a great month. Ice conditions are thick so remember the auger extensions. Yes, plural. You might need 2. Just a heads up.
Any shoreline breaks that lead into spawning areas or bays are great places to start running your tip ups. Never think you can be too shallow. If there is a foot of water between the bottom of the ice and the bottom of the lake then hog pike might be there. We like to target 4 to 10 feet of water. The bigger the bait the better. Both live and dead bait work well. You will start to see an array of gator pics on facebook beginning this weekend.
Second, we have touched on this topic before too so you might want to listen up again if you are chasing crappies this weekend in Northern Minnesota. This tip isn't true for all lakes, but it has been reported on many bodies of water this week. The panfish are super high in the water column and kind of finicky.
Last weekend we fished one of our goto back lakes and there hadn't been a visible track out on it all year. We were pumped when we starting drilling holes, but the excitement fell off a little after we couldn't find a consistent pattern or the motherload of fish. Each hole we fished had no more than one or two fish in it and they were super high in the water column. In twenty plus feet of water the fish were coming thru four to eight feet under the ice. A reason for probably not finding the motherload was due to the fact that the crappies were all spread out across the lake. Yes, your cone angle doesn't pick up a lot of fish when they are only down a few feet also.
Why are panfish found right under the ice this time of year? We have seen this time and time again. Our thoughts are these lakes have low oxygen this time of year due to lots of snow on the ice and poor light penetration especially on those bog stained lakes around the Grand Rapids area. If you are out looking for crappies this weekend or next, take this into consideration. Instead of drilling holes in the deeper basins of the lake with no results, try pushing up along the rim of the basins and looking for fish right under the ice. It could mean the difference between a few bites and a good meal at the end of the day. We didn't slam crappies that day, but we put more fish top side after we slowed down and thought about the scenerio.
Third, I want to touch base on the Eel Pout species. Do you like targeting big fish close to home. Do you want a fight from a fish before you put your ice fishing gear away? The pike and walleye season is now closed, but the pout season is just heating up. These fish fight!
Dylan Maki, Ben Olson, Forrest Leitch, and Randy Topper tried their luck at some pout this weekend on a couple Grand Rapids area lakes. They did get into a few battles and it looks as if we have just been hooked on another fish species.
Eel pout spawn in March so targeting them right now offers more opportunity. All you need to do is get out on our deep clear lakes before dark and fish well into the night. With what? Well, a larger sized glow buckshot tipped with a few minnow heads and bounced off bottom will do the trick. Remember that these fish fight so have a rod and reel matched for big fish. Where do you target them? Mid lake humps and points that stick way out into the main basin are good starting points. Pout like the gravel and sand transitions so if you know of areas with hard bottom, you are on the right path. Try it and I guarantee you will be hooked too.
-pictured in upper right corner of this blog are some hog pout from the weekend
It was a super busy and snowy weekend in the Northland. Several big events took place this weekend, including Eel Pout Festival and Ray's Sport and Marine's Grand Opening.
Eel Pout Festival is always a great time, be it a fisherman, tourist, or one to engage in the parties. There's plenty to do in Walker, MN when Eel Pout Fest is taking place. If you've never experienced Eel Pout Fest, you might have to plan on attending it next year. The atmosphere is like no other and if you have a wheel house, a couple fishing rods, and a full cooler, you are ready for the action.
Have you ever fished Eel Pout? It is a blast and yes they do taste good. Many call them, 'poor mans lobster'. HLO prostaffers, Forrest Leitch and Dylan Maki, didn't attend Pout Fest in Walker, but they hooked up with good buddies Jace Loge and Austim Stockman in the Brainerd Lakes area for a night of eel pout fishing. Here is a video recapping their success: Ice Fishing for Huge Burbot
Ray's Sport and Marine in Grand Rapids had their Grand Opening this past week and weekend. Fishing seminars each day, a huge fish fry on Saturday, to continuous boat conversation and laughs filled the amazing new store all week. The store is beautiful. The showroom is huge and wide open packed full of Lund and Crestliner boats as well as pontoons from Bennington and Lund. The service counter is right inside the main entrance so service is on you as you walk in the door for those looking for quick service. The shop in the back is up to date with state of the art lifts and tools to fix everything boat related. Sales staff are kind and knowledgeable with every boat and make out there. The new Ray's Sport and Marine is just that: new and improved. It's a must see. Stop in today. The open water season is right around the corner.
Thank you to everyone who made this weekend possible! Now it's time to deal with all the snow on the ground.
The weekend plans for most of us were to relax with family and possibly get together and do some fishing as the forecast looked beautiful for Saturday and Sunday. That was the plan during the early stages of the week. As the weekend got closer, the forecast changed to colder temps, snow, and wind.
Some plans got cancelled and others changed a tid bit. One thing that remained the same was good friends getting together and having fun for a bit on the ice. Fun is the name of the game when it comes to fishing and hanging loose. That is what Saturday brought between the wind gusts and those kids thinking they were tough tackling us at the knees.
Tip up fishing is a great way to get together, share some laughs, throw a football around, or do whatever you choose as a group in between fishing. The social atmosphere of tip up fishing, being serious, but not so much serious fishing, but kinda; well you know what I mean if you have ever tip up fished with a group of friends. Your only fishing after the flags are set properly is waiting for one to pop.
HLO has spent countless hours tip up fishing so when a weekend is in store for that, most jump for the occassion. Tip up fishing is a great way to get our kids, your kids, and our youth into ice fishing. Every kid we have ever brought flagging has absolutely loved it.
Next time you and your wife try to plan a weekend with friends or family take into consideration a tip up party. If the weather is nice, head to the lake, bring a grill, some food, drink, a bunch of tip ups, and go socialize and catch some hog pike. Set up a hub style fish house and put a heater in it as a warming house if that weather isn't very friendly.
This pike season closes this weekend on Minnesota inland lakes so if you want to tip up after this weekend you will want to head north to Lake of the Woods. I'm sure you all are wondering why I wrote about pike fishing days before the season closes. Well, we all know what takes place on Lake of the Woods in March. The pike season stays open up there and the fish get huge. HLO has spent thousands of hours tip up fishing Lake of the Woods. If you want to know more about this contact us or you can probably watch our youtube videos or page through our blogs during the months of March to find tons of info.
Oh yeah, about that snow that came last weekend: yep it landed, and more is predicted this weekend.
-pictured in the upper right corner of the blog is Christian with a nice little fighter pike from Saturday's outing
A lot of anglers get the winter blues. I can attest to this and I bet you can too. Even if you aren’t a fisherman, Northern Minnesota dishes out some adverse conditions and the pain and suffering of being inside for extended periods really wears on the mind. We need fresh air and our time outside. The outdoors is our enjoyment. Fishing is our excitement and how we share the good times with friends and family.
When prolonged frigid temps make ice fishing a hard task, most look towards open water more and more each day. I know I do. Ice fishing is fun, but all of us here at Hang Loose Outdoors would give two thumbs up to fishing soft water over hard water. No, we can’t wait either…
The ice season is a very long and drawn out season especially when the weather is brutal cold like it has been for most of the winter months around the Grand Rapids area. Only two weeks remain of the walleye season on inland lakes. Walleyes are a tough species to crack this time of year, but don’t let the prolonged cold temps and the long season draw you away from the last two weeks of the season before we can’t target them until the fishing opener in May.
Walleyes are tough to catch once first ice transitions into mid winter. We all know that. The days are getting longer now and the sun has some heat. This heat does turn the bite around for the remaining two weeks. Walleyes will go on a feeding frenzy up until season closes. There are a few things to learn, consider, and try and it can be a great time of success.
One main thing to consider as the days get longer and the sun warms the ice thus warming the water in the shallows is just that. A touch of a degree warmer water attracts baitfish, bugs, and walleyes. This warming period impacts the walleyes to chomp a few more meals. If you are where the fish are, they are more likely to eat your offering. What I’m saying is: fish shallower water for walleyes from here on out to season close. It is something that has helped us put numbers of walleyes topside in the remaining days of February and some giants to say the least.
Instead of fishing twenty to forty feet, try ten to twenty in the low light periods of the evening. Walleyes need to eat and if the sun is warming up the water in certain areas of the lake, those fish will be nearby. This doesn’t always work on all lakes, but it has been proven on a handful of lakes around Minnesota. Give it a shot.
Stay positive because the weather is about to change for the better and the best hardwater season is in front of us. Hog crappies, huge toothy pike, and big lake trout will be coming topside in March. "Woooooooo, it's almost March Madness" For now, good luck fishing!
-Pictured in the upper right corner of the blog is Forrest Leitch with a handful of walleyes from this past weekend
With beautiful -25 degree temperatures in the forecast and chances of snow, we were set to do battle with the unforgiving Ontario elements. The stage was set for my good buddy, Jake Beckel’s, bachelor party. A group of 9 guys set off for Barker's Bay Lodge, located on pristine Lower Manitou Lake, to chase Lake Trout and enjoy an awesome adventure.
After getting the final things prepped and packed up early Thursday morning, we pointed the trucks north for the first stage of our journey. With talks of a 25 mile snowmobile ride in, I couldn't help but wonder if these guys knew what we were about to get ourselves into. I know you are thinking 25 miles is a quick shot for snowmobiles, but we also had two side by sides on tracks that were taking the long journey as well. This is what left an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.
After a quick and easy border crossing and stop at the bait shop, we had made it as far as trucks would allow us to go. We were greeted by -20 degree temps when we stepped out of the trucks and began the unloading process. Making short order of unloading and repacking we were off on the 25 mile trail ride.
At the back of the pack, four of us took off down the trail picking up any fallen or lost items from our other sleds as we made the slow trek in. At about mile number 3, we started to smell the burning of rubber. You guessed it, the side by side in front of us was slowly burning up the belt and it was only a matter of time before it blew. Surprisingly the belt held until 1 mile away from the lodge and then she finally gave in. The bad part is we did not have a spare belt for that machine with. The adventure was real now.
We were greeted by an antsy Jake who had nothing but fishing on his mind at this point, I did as well, so that put a little damper in his mood. Luckily we had Luke the Diesel Mechanic, Jake's Dad, and Kyle's Dad who are all much better than us at fixing anything. This allowed Jake and myself to head out on the water and get our first taste of Lower Manitou.
Twenty minutes into our first spot we marked a handful of trout and I was able to land my first one of the trip. We decided to head off to one more spot and shack up in the Eskimo Grizzly for the evening. All I can say is never leave fish to find fish! We didn't mark another trout the rest of the night. “Ben, what were you thinking.”
We headed back to the cabin and arrived to a completely torn down side by side and the resort owner 4-wheeler in shambles. Turns out he had the same belt and clutch which matched the side by side. Can't thank the resort owner enough for letting us tear down his wheeler and let us use the parts from it. The evening went on, dice were rolled, food was scarfed up, and drinks were had.
We woke up Friday morning to more frigid temps. Some had been struck by the "FNIC" symptoms. For those wondering what "FNIC" stands for its "First Night in Camp". Sure enough it even seemed that the Ranger side by side had caught it as well because it was throwing codes and would not turn over. Luke and Jake's Dad stayed back and got the machine thawed out and started up as the rest of us went and chased some lakers. A handful of trout were caught that day for dinner but overall the fish were in a slow funk.
With the common theme of slow fishing, I will fast forward to Sunday morning. We woke up before light to get ready for our trip out. The first sled was warmed up and it read -26 on the temperature gauge as the wind was howled. Sure enough everything started but the troublesome arctic cat side by side so again we had to bust out the heater and warm that machine up too.
The snowmobiles took off first to get back and get the trucks started and we agreed to wait until 10am and if there was no signs of the side by sides we would send a sled back for help. Sure enough 10am rolled around and there were no signs of the side by sides. Jake took off after them. He found them 1/2 way down the trail with the Ranger pulling the Arctic Cat. Great!! The Arctic Cat had lost all its coolant and was over heating so the Ranger had to tow it back 18 miles. The stress on the Ranger led to another blown belt that had to be changed on the trail as well. What should of been an hour and a half drive out turned into three hours. We all finally took a deep breath when we got everything on the trailer and we're headed home.
Earlier in the trip on Wednesday night Jake had bought a scratch off ticket which he had won nothing on. I looked at him and said, "Well it can only get better from here". Boy was I wrong!
These are the trips that may turn people away from big adventures like the one we were on, but we all talked about it and agreed that these are the trips you will remember for a life time. Everything that could go wrong did, but we battled through it and made it out. All I can say is thank god we had the mechanically inclined guys we did on the trip!!
For anyone looking for an outstanding destination check out Barkers Bay Lodge on Lower Manitou Lake. Wayne and Robin are one the nicest couple I have met and did so many things for us to make our trip enjoyable!!
A quick tow into camp written by Ben Olson
It was a great weekend to be an ice fisherman. The weather was mild, ice conditions were great, and the fish decided to eat some lead and peel some drag.
Colt Anderson, Dylan Maki, and Forrest Leitch filmed with Fish Addictions TV north of Grand Rapids, Minnesota on Firday and Saturday. Their target species were walleyes but they also caught some nice bonus yellow stripes. Stay tuned to Fox Sports North at 10:30a.m on Sunday mornings to catch this exciting episode and all the awesome Fish Addictions episodes.
Randy Topper, Bob Topper, and Tike Sutherland headed north into Ontario, Canada for round two of lake trout. We would have to say, Randy had his hands full with this trip. Tike and Bob had never fished lake trout before so they were fired up to say the least.
I'm not quiet sure about all the details of how this trip went, but it was cut short due to mechanical failure on both the snowmobile and ATV. Canada is rough on gear and we have proved that on each trip we take. The fishing and thrill makes up for it though. The size of the fish we chase is a dream. We all know dreams don't always come true. For Tike, it did. Check out his 30 lb lake trout in the upper right corner of the blog. (This was Tike's first ever lake trout...... fish of a lifetime).
And that's why we fish: To have fun and chase dreams.....
Ray’s Sport and Marine held their annual Lund Pro Staff meeting this past Friday. This year the meeting was held in Ottertail, MN at Thumper Pond. It was a great meeting and we all look forward to the 2018 Lund boats and another awesome year on the water. Thank you to Scott Glorvigen for yet another wonderful presentation. Spring is not far away so if you are looking for a new boat this year stop into the many Ray’s (Hernesman Boat Group) locations: Grand Rapids, Duluth, Bemidji, Perham, Alexandria, and Moorhead.
Colt, Dylan, and myself (Forrest) decided to use this opportunity to get after some of the fish that the Ottertail area is famous for: trophy class panfish. We came up with a game plan Friday night and headed for the land of giants well before sunrise Saturday morning. Our first stop was a small lake near Detroit Lakes. I had fished this lake in years past and done very well on crappies with a few nice bluegills mixed in, so we began our search looking for crappies. This lake consists of four main basins, and we broke those basins down to treat them as individual lakes. This is a tactic that works very well when you have multiple fishermen in your group, especially on larger bodies of water.
We spent most of the morning in the first basin, fishing on memories of years past. Big mistake. I don’t think we pulled a single fish from that basin, even though we punched out a few dozen holes over just a couple acres. We buzzed over to the next basin and made a quick sweep to discover the same thing, not a whole lot going on. With most of our morning burned up, we made our way to the third basin. D and I ripped out a series of holes in the center of the basin while Colt followed us with a flasher and rod. First hole, stacked! Colt fired down a tungsten tipped with a plastic and instantly got whacked by a solid 9.5” bluegill.
After finding that school right away, we knew we should spend some time drilling out this basin and following them, so we did just that. What we ended up finding out was that there were three distinct schools of fish roaming this basin. The largest school consisted of very small bluegills and crappies, and I mean SMALL. These fish were spread out across most of the basin and suspended one foot to three feet off the bottom. It didn’t take long to determine these were not the fish we were after. The second prominent school we encountered was the school everyone wants to find: aggressive bluegills in the 9 and 10 inch range. These fish were immediately obvious when they showed up on your flasher. They would roll through in packs of three to five, suspended halfway up the column. They would eat very readily, as long as they were not alone. Competition for the bait definitely played a factor in how aggressive each fish was. The third school we found in this basin contained 10-11 inch crappies. They were running more of the edge of the basin and were packed very tight. When we got on top of this school, we would all fish out of the same hole to keep the school around and catch as many as possible. As soon as Colt would get a fish out of the hole, D would fire down a tungsten and hook one before Colt had his released. We would bang on a school like that for a few minutes of nonstop action before they faded away.
Although the bluegills we found in this lake were trophy class, we had caught plenty more than enough to be happy with, and decided to swing for the fences to try to ice a couple trophy class crappies. We knew it wasn’t going to be a numbers bite. If we found the right fish, we would probably only catch a few, and they would probably be giants. This crappie bite is a bit different than a standard basin crappie bite, and I have a lot of fun with it. In these Detroit Lakes area lakes, I’ve had a lot of success fishing weeds around the edges of depressions of shallow flats. Crappies will roam in the middle of these depressions at times, but high numbers of pike and fishing pressure will push these fish up into the weeds during much of the day. They can be difficult to locate, but if you can get on top of them they will usually be aggressive and big. Long story short, we struck out. We caught a few rat pike and some small crappies, but never stumbled into the hogs. They’re still out there, and we will find them next time.
Written by Forrest Leitch
The ice season is ramping up following the New Year with high expectations of success for 2018. Getting the invite from Colt, Dylan, and Randy to join them up at Brown’s Clearwater West was one of the easiest choices I’ve ever made. To add the proverbial cherry on top, we were winter camping. Knowing their relaxed personalities and knowledge of the area we were in for a great trip regardless of what Mother Nature could throw at us.
We all started gathering gear Tuesday (1/2) and Wednesday (1/3) to prepare for the trip. Based on the frigid cold and fishing reports we decided to push the trip back to Saturday morning (1/6) instead of Thursday (1/4) to improve our chances on tying into a few lake trout. The anticipation was high and taking the finger off the trigger was difficult but proved to be a good decision. Once all the gear was packed into Dylan’s Chevy chew chew train, we set our sights for Ontario at 11:30 pm Friday night. After racing north for five hours with temps hovering around -30 degrees Fahrenheit we reached the famous Brown’s Clearwater West Lodge. We took an hour catnap (meow), then we slapped on our gear and started the long process of starting snowmobiles, filling fish houses, and excel boxes with gear.
Once everything was organized we set out to a main lake break where these guys explored the previous year with some success. While riding on Clearwater West Lake I was memorized by rock faces, towering pines covered in snow, and the rising sun, which instantly made me feel alive. We reached the spot and Topps described it perfectly “Every time I come out here I feel small”. We collected out thoughts, probed the depths, and set up four houses 50-100 yards apart along the break in 40-60 feet. Immediately, drags were peeling followed by mad dashes to help land fish during the morning flurry. Dylan and Topps were on tear pulling in quality fish left and right. This was followed by a mid day lull, then Colt and I each connected on a couple nice greasers to round out the day with ten fish. We had to leave the spot early to set up camp for the coming night.
With good vibes in the air we set up the tent and loaded our gear into our respective areas. Once surrounded by good people and warm heat radiating from the wood stove you realize what trout camp is all about. Relaxing, sharing stories, and planning the next day all come together to make a day complete. After stuffing our faces with Lindsey’s legendary baked spaghetti, we prepared for the coming morning. This included D using an axe to smash coffee beans, since pre-grounded coffee is for soft handed individuals, on a piece of wood to get our morning fix; Colt strategically placing the holy grail breakfast burrito cooler in a prime location for distribution; and Topps filling the wood stove.
The morning couldn’t come fast enough. With sleds topped off with fuel we set out for White Otter Lake, which is located north of Clearwater West Lake in the Turtle River Provincial Park. We ventured a scenic 20 some miles to a couple known spots on the lake. The morning proved to be productive with nice trout being iced by Topps, Colt, and Dylan. Around noon the guys decided to give me a tour of the infamous White Otter Castle. It was amazing to see the hard work of James McQuat’s dream stand the test of time. Now it was time to get on some afternoon fish to finish out the day. With a snow storm percolating above us the trout action slowed with a few fish chasing. We decided to pick up the sticks and motor back to Clearwater West for the last hour to hopefully position ourselves for a late feeding window. Colt and I both connected on a few portly trout before dark to get the tally up to eight fish for the day. We filled our bellies with fresh trout and hobo meals back at camp. There was also a red fox that frequently visited and enjoyed one of our frozen trout in the snow bank. After some good conversation we decided to hit the same spot we fished Saturday on Clearwater West for Monday morning.
Hearing the wind howl in the morning we all knew the day was going to be difficult. I relieved Topper of his usual duty and got a fire going from the remaining embers to get the morning underway. Once getting some breakfast and a few cups of coffee in our system we headed out. The morning was difficult with little life seen on the flashers and only one smaller trout captured by D. The decision was made to split up and cover to two different areas. Colt and Dylan fished a large hump while Topper and I fished a saddle/neck down area to hopefully contact some trout. Colt ended up catching a nice 30.5 inch fish in the evening. I was fortunate to catch two cookie cutter (25-26 inch) trout between wind milling my arms to get feeling back into my fingers. This was our slowest day of the trip but likely pushed us to fish together for our final day.
The hump Colt and Dylan fished the previous evening was on the menu for all of us Tuesday morning. Dylan and Colt teamed up, while Randy and I fished together to cap off the trip. We were set up before light and found hungry trout early on. Randy and I were set up on one of the high points of the hump (35 feet) while D and Colt were on a flat (45 feet) closer to the deep edge of the structure. Topps was a one-man show catching four quality trout, with one pushing 29.5 inches, in an hour and a half. The experience is amplified 10 fold sharing the chase, hook set, and landing of each fish in the same shelter. Colt and Dylan then started catching fish after Randy’s rampage by landing four fish, including a dirty 30 by D, in a short period of time. I ended up catching one 28 inch trout following the second wave observed in the other house. Randy finished out the day with the last fish after we moved to the deep edge before calling it quits. My knuckles were sore from celebratory fist pounds, chest hurt from hard laughs, and was ecstatic that our last day ended with a bang.
The trip was an overall success with 30 plus trout caught and wouldn’t trade the experiences for the world. Being apart of a passionate group of anglers who are able to roll with the punches is key for these types of trips. Personally, I appreciate the attitude, knowledge, and the urgency in progression all these guys exhibit chasing fish. It was also a pleasure to meet Barry and Carol Brown who own Brown’s Clearwater West Lodge. This is an outstanding destination if you’re interested in chasing winter lake trout!
Written by Ethan Karrpinen
-Product Spotlight from Forrest Leitch-
"I want to take a few minutes to talk about what might be my favorite ice rod.
The 30" spring bobber panhandler was the first JT rod I owned, and for good reason. I did my research and I knew what I wanted. I wanted the best panfish rod I could get my hands on.
Before I owned that rod, I used a variety of fiberglass panfish rods, there are quite a few fiberglass blank rods on the market, and they do the job they're designed to do: show you a panfish bite. And show me the bite they did! A fiberglass rod with a sanded down tip will absolutely show you a panfish bite, whether it be the lift of a crappie or the inhale of a bluegill, you can usually see that bite on a glass rod.
On the other hand, glass rods are missing something. A glass rod will show you a bite, but that is all it will do for bite confirmation. The energy transfer through fiberglass is simply not there. I challenge anyone fishing a fiberglass rod to close your eyes as soon as you see marks on your flasher.
This is when I began researching more into carbon panfish blanks. Carbon has far superior energy transfer to glass, but they lack that nice, almost "droopy" tip that you get with a tungsten jig on a soft glass rod. You can feel bites much better with these rods, but they lack the visual cue.
This is where the spring bobber panhandler fills the gap. Two methods of bite confirmation. A top quality carbon blank for ultimate energy transfer. You can feel a bluegill breathe in a jig. Add to this a nitinol spring bobber tied directly into the blank. This is important, since the bobber is tied direct, you don't lose any of that amazing carbon fiber energy transfer. Now you have a rod that gives you multiple methods of bite confirmation.
What this adds up to is missing less bites, plain and simple. And you don't often get a second chance at the fish of a lifetime."
Colt, Dylan, Topper, and Big E are up in Ontario, Canada chasing lake trout this weekend. Don't miss next week's blog and pictures on social media....
We hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. Hang Loose Outdoors wishes you all the best in 2018.
We want to take a moment and ring in the new year, but we also want to pause to remember a great year. Two thousand seventeen was full of high fives, success, fun, and memories. It's going to be tough to top 2017, but we must always strive to top last year. Set new goals and dreams for 2018 and make them a reality. The only way to become better is to be better.
We are super excited for 2018 as we begin planning out our year. Once again we will be bringing you a top notch open water guide service in the Grand Rapids area. Our main goal again in 2018 is to educate our audience and clients so they can be more successful on the water or in the woods. Our guide service provides two great options: A fun day on the water with hook sets, high fives, and a beautiful meal of fish to top things off; or An educational outing where our guides help you become a better angler by showing you how to target walleyes on a certain body of water, to help with your electronics to find fish, to presentation guidance, and so much more.
We will be teaming up again in 2018 to fish the AIM Walleye Series Circuit and many other tournaments around Minnesota and the northern Great Lakes region. Tournaments fuel our passion to succeed and compete. They also teach us more presentations and ways to target fish so we can learn and teach you down the road.
We have many ideas and goals in 2018 and planning for them begins now. Happy New Year everyone. Make it a great year and follow your dreams!
We hope you all had a Merry Christmas. All of us here at Hang Loose Outdoors had a wonderful Christmas spent with family and friends. Our children are at the age now where Christmas is exciting, Santa is either scary or the best thing ever, and presents mean so much. It's super fun watching them rip into gifts and the smile that fills their faces. Christmas is all about the kids and we couldn't be happier soaking up the holidays with our family.
Now, we wish you all a Happy New Year! Have a safe and happy 2018. We look forward to another successful year on the water and in the woods.
A few of us found some spare time between the Christmas commutes to get out on the ice. Fishing wasn't action packed this weekend, but it was good enough. The weather seems to have the fish in a little funk as of late. Fish are more negative than willing to bite. If you put your time in and find the right presentation some fish are willing to play. Look for the bite to become better and more steady as the weather stabilizes. Its gonna be cold for some time so hunker down in a warm house and bring in the new year.
Remember to be safe on the ice. It is not time to drive a truck out on just any lake. The ice conditions on the deeper and larger bodies of water around the Grand Rapids area still sketchy. The ice in the middle varies greatly and some anglers are finding only seven inches in spots. We would be worried driving ATVs on certain lakes still. Let the cold build some more ice before you look at setting your vehicles on these lakes. Good luck and happy new year!
-pictured in the upper right corner of the blog is Colt with a 10+ inch bluegill from a small Grand Rapids area lake this weekend
It was a sad weekend in the the Cohasset/ Deer River Community this weekend. Anytime a life is lost there is morning. We go home and hug our loved ones extra tight. For us ice anglers, this one hit a little harder. Even though just a few of us knew Bernice, it was an early ice accident that leaves her family morning. Thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends.
We have preached, "No ice is safe ice" for over a month now. With lakes freezing early this year, most don't understand that this doesn't mean that they are safe. It's actually the opposite. Early freeze made ice conditions worse on the medium to larger bodies of water around the Grand Rapids area. How and why? They froze around the shorelines, but not out in the middle. Strong winds and mild temperatures kept the middles, the narrows, and other random areas of the lake open until last week when they finally froze. Now, we have snow on that new thin ice and you have no way of knowing ice conditions unless you check the ice.
Please help spread the word folks. Don't be driving your ATV and snowmobiles out across the lakes right now unless you know exactly how much ice there is under your tires.
Forrest, Dylan, Colt, Scoots, and Allan made the trek to Mille Lacs on Saturday. The accessed the lake in Garrison and fished shoreline reefs the whole day. Ice thickness was around seven inches, but they found areas with less and more. Its going to vary out there too. Fishing was good. They iced 30 walleyes throughout the day including a fat 26.5 inch. Dylan iced the big fish of the day on a Reel Bait Tackle fergie tipped with a minnow. If you are going to Mille Lacs over the Christmas weekend, give the resorts a call for up to date ice conditions.
The panfish bite has been good around the Grand Rapids area.
Cold temperatures are on their way so stay warm, stay on top of the ice, and Merry Christmas!
NO ICE IS SAFE ICE!
Small shallow lakes around the Grand Rapids area have good ice on them. These lakes froze early and didn't get affected by the wind as much as those bigger bodies of water. Usually when we refer to small lakes we are speaking of those in the 50-100 acre range. We do fish lakes even smaller than that, but those could be classified as ponds. These small lakes we chat about are back in the woods and see very low to no fishing pressure. This area is full of lakes and you wouldn't know whats in them unless you go out and find out for yourself. Now is a great time to do that. Minimal snow in the woods makes for an easy ATV route and if you want to bear down and travel by foot that is always a goto.
Good luck fishing and remember to be safe out there!
This weekend was spent chasing some pike and panfish around as well as spending time with family and friends. Craig and Kevin filled last minute muzzleloader tags also. If you still have a tag you must resort back to the bow here in Minnesota.
-pictured in the upper right corner of the blog are the boys with a nice double from a short tip up outing. Whats better than friends, flags, and fun on the ice?
Colt and Dylan spent the weekend at the 25th annual St Paul Ice Fishing and Winter Sports Show.
The boys worked the JT Outdoor Products booth. The booth was a packed house from Friday morning to Sunday at close. JT rods are the hottest rods on the market right now and everyone wanted to get their hands on them this weekend. The ice line up from JT Outdoor Products is technique specific. They have rods to accomodate the angler who fishes panfish to the fisherman chasing big lake trout and everything in between. These rods are a high end rod thats light, sensitive, specifically engineered for the technique, and has the utmost energy transfer to detect every bite. Each rod offers a perfect parabolic curve while fighting a fish which means more hookups and less lost fish. The engineering that goes into each rod as well as the field testing is truly remarkable. Their customer service is also second to none.
The boys had a blast at the ST Paul Ice Fishing Show.
If you haven't attended this show, we advice you to do so next year. It's a great weekend to get pumped up for early ice fishing. Each vendor displays all their new products for the year. Prostaff is on hand to answer questions and talk fishing. There are also fishing seminars throughout the day.
Now, it's time to find some safe ice and go set the hook. Good luck on the hardwater. Remember, no ice is safe ice!
We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving
As outdoorsmen turn their focus from deer hunting to ice fishing, I think we must talk about ice safety. The early ice season started sooner then normal this year and conditions have changed for the worse at least this week. A tragedy took place this weekend on Upper Red Lake where each year thousands of people race to for first ice. Is early ice fishing really worth a few fish? Should we listen to others' ice reports and follow the leader onto a thin sheet of ice?
Upper Red Lake is a huge shallow body of water and it is usually the first walleye lake in Minnesota to freeze over. Eager anglers study the resorts reports via social media and before the word 'foot traffic' is printed on the screen, they are headed north to set the hook on the first walleye of the 2017 ice season. Once the resorts say there is five to six inches of ice and ATVs can access the lake then most are ripping wheelers out to their favorite fishing spots. Even if the resorts advise all anglers to stay in their staked in boundary or don't go further then 2 miles, you think everyone will listen to that? If there is open water to the west of their road, is it clearly marked, or should they even be letting people out onto the ice? Open water? Yeah open water, but people must fish and resorts must collect money from anglers accessing the lake. Does this make sense?
To some it makes sense and to others, they just shake their heads. Lots go hit the ice, play safe, catch fish, and have fun. They return home to their family and friends with a smile on their face. Some post pictures on facebook of the great time on Red Lake which encourages more anglers to go. A few anglers each year don't return home with a smile and a couple might not make it home.
This weekend, two anglers did not return home to family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them!
Should resorts be allowing anglers to access the lake if ice conditions are that inconsistent? I think this is an issue that needs clarification.
Early ice for the Hang Loose Outdoors crew usually takes place on small bodies of water around the Grand Rapids area. We check the ice with a chisel every twenty feet as we go. We have ice picks around our neck and a long rope in the sled. Our buddy follows behind as we slowly make our way out onto the newly formed ice sheet. It doesn't matter if there is 4 inches or 6 inches, we are careful, we check the ice as we go. Even if we are not the first ones to explore this ice sheet, we take our own time making sure it is safe. We don't let others tell us where the bad spots are and what areas should be avoided. Usually the ice on these small lakes is consistent. As ice thickens on the larger bodies of water around the area, we start exploring those. We take the same precautions on those as well. We don't like to follow the leader.
No ice is safe ice and right now there is more unsafe ice than good ice! Lets all take a step back and think about what early ice really is. We need to approach every ice sheet at our own risk. Don't let us tell you what the ice conditions are. Find out ice conditions for yourself and then proceed with caution. The ice fishing season is a long one and the fish will still be there next week.
Colt and Dylan will be at the JT Outdoors booth this weekend at the St Paul Ice Show. Stop by and chat with them and check out the lineup of JT Rods!
The last weekend of the Minnesota rifle season is always an exciting one to follow. You never know what's going to go down. Some say they are going to shoot a doe for the freezer and jump on into ice fishing. Others explain how they are going to wait out Mr Big thru muzzleloader season which opens on the 25th of November. What people do and what they say is another thing when it comes down to making a decision if you really want meat or want to keep shivering in your stand for another week or two. Any who, the trigger seems to get pulled more on the third weekend of the rifle season, especially our Hang Loose Outdoors members looking to hit the ice and catch some fish. We all love deer meat and there is also some much needed management.
At the Maki Cabin, Brian, called together some tag owners on the last weekend. With almost five years being in a buck only or doe lottery area, the doe herd at the cabin was very high. Lots of deer is a good thing to have, but a balanced herd is much better. Mr Maki said does had to go. After all was said and done, a new tradition might have been created.
Seven does hit the ground at the cabin on the last weekend of the rifle season. The 1st Annual 'You suck cause you haven't shot a big buck this year- 3rd weekend doe management' was started. A new tradition? Well, I would say. I believe more fun was had this weekend than all the other ones ahead of it. Friends and family shooting deer, high fives, and meat in the freezer is what its all about!
More highlights were interwoven into group texts all throughout the weekend. The most exciting was for Topper himself. How can a season get better after you have already harvested your personal best buck? Well, it can and it did. I've never heard more excitement in a text then when Topper text us this: "Brodie just killed ol 'Bigsix' insane hunt less than 20 yards. We are freaking out! Sitting shoulder to shoulder in buddy stand in cut. Wooooooooooo" Brodie is Topper's nephew who he has taught all the ropes of hunting and fishing to. "When you watch someone kill their personal best buck, especially a kid, nothing compares," Topps stated. Congrats Brodie on your buck!
The Wolf Brothers put some meat in the freezer on the last weekend too. I have not heard from the Godfrey camp yet, but I'm sure things went down out in the swamp too. All in all, it was another good rifle season here in Northern Minnesota. We might not have the biggest bucks, but we sure have fun hunting what we do have.
Lots of hunters take time off of work during the MN rifle season. Why not? It's hard to get anything done at work when all you think about are big bucks. What if they are running by my stand right now? Should I hunt the swamp stand, ladder, ground blind, or the plot on Saturday? What is the wind gonna do? My buddy just shot a buck now and I'm at work. I can't handle this. The rut is on. Everyones at the deer shack. See, you my as well take the week off of work. We as hunters can only concentrate on one thing when the rut is on.
The best way to kill a big buck in these big woods is to put your time in. It can happen at any second. It might be the only deer you see all season. To kill a hog buck, you must be there. Lots of hunters kill big bucks by luck. Yes, you need lots of luck to kill a nice buck. I watch as many first time hunters or novice hunters shoot bigger bucks than anything I/we have killed. It's awesome as this is what keeps the sport alive, but it's also frustrating. The all around yearly work we put into these woods just waiting for an opportunity at a good buck is endless. I have been fortunate to harvest some very nice bucks in my hunting career. Bucks that other hunters would be tickled to shoot. But I have not had a chance at the monster. I have also watched as some very good hunters put countless dedicated hours into scouting, preparation, and time on stand to not get an opportunity at a big buck.
Randy Topper is one of the best hunters I know. The guy sleeps, eats, and dreams big bucks. His mind is thinking hunting six months out of the year. He works his tail off preparing for the season. He has more spots in these big woods than one can imagine. His spots and areas are better than anything you or I have put together. Topper has all the recipes for success, but has not had big buck luck on his side.
Well, Friday night the hard work, blood, sweat, and time put in the woods all came down to a two second opportunity for Topps. A buck Topps calls 'the big 10' offered him a little window and Randy put him down. I'm more happy for a guy now than I've ever been. Congrats Topps on your personal best buck. You work hard for hogs and now it's time for you to go on a big buck streak. Shoot a bigger one next year and keep on rolling.
The HLO crew put a few deer on the ground this week, but nothing that compared to Topper's hog.- pictured in the right corner of blog
Good Luck to everyone hunting this week and the last weekend. The weather looks a lot more comfortable this week than last week. It has been a cold deer season!
The Minnesota Rifle Opener is more of a tradition then anything else in the northcountry. Some view it as a holiday more so over Christmas or New Years. There is a special place in every outdoorsman/womans' heart for riifle opener. Hunters head to the northwoods to their cabins or their preferred hunting locations well before the Saturday opener. Here preparation takes place and traditions are carried on.
Traditions range widely and can include pretty much everything and anything: the last one at the shack has to turn the outhouse heater on in the morning, to Dad's opening evening venison stew, to cribbage tournaments, to the bet on the big buck. There are always things the youngest or newest member of deer camp must carry out. They might be the ones that have to please the older generation, but they are the most important when it comes to carrying on traditions. Remember to introduce a kid to deer hunting and make sure you take your kids to the deer shack. Rifle opener is about fun and excitement and keeping the sport alive.
In last week's blog I gave a little update on the status of the rut as we seen it so far and also spoke about how we look forward to the week before the MN rifle opener as the best bowhunting. Well, this week didn't disappoint again for us bowhunters. The bucks started to chase as a couple does came into estrus. A few of us had missed opportunities on nice MN public land bucks and one connected.
Brock played a game with a nice 9 pt buck on Wednesday November 1st. The buck didn't want to come into the intense calling sessions that Brock threw his way until he couldn't resist the 'snort-n-wheeze'. This buck hung out at 80 yards for quite some time wondering if he should continue his route or go take a peek at the action. He did circles contemplating until he couldn't handle it anymore. If there was a buck over there with a doe, he had to check it out. When he came in he came in hot. Brock's arrow thumped him and he knew he had made a bad decision. The shot was not sweet by any means, but the rage broadhead did the trick and made for lots of high fives and congrats. Any nice buck taken with stick and string in the MN public land big woods is a trophy. These woods are huge and deer have no patterns. It is by far one of the toughest places to bowhunt in the United States. The reward is that much sweeter.
Colt and Topper both had awesome buck encounters in the next two days, but their big boys just wouldn't offer them a shot. That's bowhunting!
Anticipation was high leading up to the rifle opener on Saturday. The rut was just beginning and the forecast was calling for temperatures below freezing. The deer should be on their feet all day. A full moon did throw a little wrench into the almost perfect situation though.
Opening weekend for HLO was good. We again had a few missed big buck encounters, but sooner or later we knew our rough luck would change. Brian Maki put the first big buck down on opening Monday.... And you will have to read next week's blog for the rest of the week and 2nd weekend report...
-pictured in the upper right corner of the blog is Brock and Brian Maki (Dylan's father) with their MN bucks.
The end of October means big bucks are beginning their pre rut routines. We as bow hunters here at Hang Loose Outdoors look forward to this time of year. Some of us eat sleep and dream this time of year. Topper has been known to totally space out for a month of the year just thinking about bucks. Sometimes ya got to slap the kid when he's driving or send a search party for him while he's working on a timber sale. He usually gets side tracked following a buck track and looking for spots to kill a buck. The rut is the time of year when your chances of killing a nice buck in the northern Minnesota big woods greatly increases.
Hunting public land in the heart of the northern Minnesota big woods is the toughest and most frustrating things. These woods are big and vast and deer patterns don't exist. If you think hunting shows and scenarios on the Outdoor Channel pertain to these woods, you better think again. Killing a doe with a stick and string is tough enough around here let along a mature buck. You just don't get many chances no matter how hard you work for it or how many hours you sit. A luck factor comes into play in these wide open woods.
Owning your own land and making food plots also increases your odds a bit in the Minnesota big woods, but not by much. Some of the HLO crew owns land or have leases. These few do see more deer, but do they shoot nice bucks every year with their bows? No! We all know how tough bowhunting really is.
Pre-rut begins here in late October and leads into the 'chase phase' which we believe is the best time of year. The 'chase phase' is when the first doe in the area comes into estrus. Once a buck smells the first whiff of estrus, they begin chasing every doe they encounter. Bucks are on their feet more and wonder out of their comfort zone more often. This increases the odds of the hunter. The 'chase phase' only lasts a few days and usually takes place in the first couple days of November(1-4th). Once a few does in an area have come into estrus that phase is put to bed. Yes, bucks are still chasing does, but more bucks have found does in estrus and are now following specific does until they tend them. A buck can follow one doe for days.
We look forward to the days leading up to the MN Rifle Opener. The rifle season here in Minnesota is during the main rut so we as bowhunters only have a few days of prime buck travel before the guns come out. Some of us wish the rifle season was moved back another week. That would sure extend prime bow season a bunch. Once the orange army hits the woods, you can put the bows away.
Leading up to this weekend, signs of pre-rut in the big woods were very minimal. With things quite not there yet, Topps, Dylan, and Colt headed out to western Minnesota to bowhunt. Why? Anywhere outside the MN big woods offers better bowhunting success. And the zone they went to offered a management tag. So one can shoot a doe. That's exactly what the plan was. Get some meat in the freezer before the rut. The weather was pretty nasty with rain/snow and high winds. The boys hunted for a day and a half and Topper connected on a doe. The rest of the HLO crew took to the big woods around the Grand Rapids area. Surprisingly, some found great success.....
Now, this week should be good bowhunting in the northern Minnesota big woods. This is the last week before the guns come out. The MN Rifle Opener is Nov 4th a touch early this year. It's time to get it done with the bow!
-Speaking of getting it done with the bow. Pictured in the upper right corner of the blog are two that got it done this week. Congrats to Momma Maki and HLO's Dan Swenson on two beautiful northern Minnesota bow kills
It's prime bowhunting season as we push towards the last two full weeks before the MN Rifle Opener. November 4th is our gun opener. Remember to take a kid hunting this year. Let them shoot their first deer or just sit and watch and take it all in: the woods, the walk in the dark, the whole experience. Rifle season is tradition and its important to introduce our youth to this great sport. Someone needs to carry on what our grandpas and great grandpas started.
Hunting is more than harvesting. It's being with family. It's teaching others the woods, the way of life. It's sharing laughs and stories. Most of all it's relaxing and being one with the outdoors. Hunting can be anything we make it, but most importantly make it fun to those you introduce, especially the kids. Step back and look at the scenery, what mother nature has created. Hunting is peace.
The HLO boys will be out in the woods as much as possible these next 2 weeks archery hunting. This is one of our favorite times of the year. Once the 'chase phase' kicks in, things are going to get heated. The 'chase phase' is when the first doe comes into estreus and the bucks began chasing any doe they lay eyes on hoping they too are in estreus. Bucks are on their feet during the day and a lot of the times during mid day hours. All day sits in the stand can be very successful. You never know what might come walking or running by. The 'chase phase' can offer some sights and sounds to the hunter that they never knew existed. Good luck bowhunting these next two weeks.
And remember to take it all in when you are hunting. Even the walk back to the truck. -picture in upper right corner of the blog from HLO prostaffer Forrest Leitch
I know hunting season and big bucks are on most of your minds as we look forward to the 2017 MN Rifle Season. But, we must take into consideration that ice fishing follows deer season. Early ice is one of the best times of the year to target walleyes around Northern Minnesota and crappies too. What do you need for ice season before we all get busy with the early mornings, deer camp, and carrying on traditions?
Colt, Dylan, and Forrest spent the weekend attending the JT Outdoor Products pro staff gathering/meeting/photo shoot. In the heart of the Ottertail Lakes area, this team put on a great show. The gathering involved introduction to new rods, both ice and long rods, marketing strategy, fun, laughs, and of course fishing. The JT staff is more of a family then a staff.
Well, to our point. JT custom rods are in high demand so if you want the best, most sensitive, lightest, comfortable ice fishing rod on the market before early ice you better order one today. If you want to order please get ahold of one of the HLO boys. Just shoot us an email. If you've never held one please reach out to us. We would be happy to meet you and let you look over the whole JT ice arsenal. If you are a serious ice angler or love the sport, you owe it to yourself to put one in your hands. These rods are truly amazing. They are leading the industry. You can check them out at JT Outdoor Productstoo.
The other HLO boys were hard at it bowhunting, grouse hunting, or possibly doing a little on the honey-to-do-lists. We gotta get those done before the long deer seasons and the snow flys. Because after deer season we jump straight to the ice.
I'm sure Dan Swenson went to the Vikings and Packers game on Sunday! For all you Packers' fans. Sorry for your season loss. Get over it!
Have a great week and an even better weekend. It's gonna be an awesome one.
-pictured in the upper right corner of the blog is a little teaser pic from the JT gathering/meeting/photoshoot
The fall colors were in full force the past couple days in the Grand Rapids area. Wow, they were stunning! I would have to say that the majority of the colors will be swept off the trees this week with the morning frosts and daytime winds. We hope you all enjoyed the beauty while it lasted be it on the lake, in the woods, or just traveling the area.
Fishing action for the Hang Loose crew took place on Leech Lake this past weekend. Abe and Amos guided two days out of Trapper's Landing Resort on the south end of the lake. Walleye fishing was good and will only get better by this coming weekend. Look to the shallow wind blown shorelines and points with a jig tipped with a minnow. Your best walleye action should take place in 4-8 fow once the water temps reach that low to mid 50s. They were in the mid to upper 50s this weekend. The water temps will drop steadily with the cool nights and mornings now.
Dylan Maki and friends trolled the full moon out on Leech this past Friday and found a good bite during the night too. Action wasn't awesome but the big fish bite was. Quite a few fish over 25 inches hit the net.
On Sunday, Dylan and Joe Bricko filmed an upcoming Next Bite TV show with the legend, Gary Parsons. You will have to watch the show to see how they did and where they went. We will have details on our facebook page when we know when the air date will be. Go check out the next bite tv facebook page for some teasers and be sure to like them.
The rest of the HLO crew was in the woods bow hunting or getting things ready for rifle hunting, grouse hunting, and/or duck hunting. The grouse reports are super scattered this year. Some are seeing a fair number of birds and others aren't finding much at all. The leaves and foliage will be alomost off this weekend so we will see if it brings them out to the trails and roads. The grouse numbers are suppose to be up, but we are not agreeing with that as of now. Most of the local ducks are gone, but hunters are finding good action tucked back along the rivers. Bucks are making rubs and laying down scrapes. Its gonna be a great week and upcoming weekend to bowhunt. Let the hunting begin!
-Great picture in the upper corner of the blog from Godfrey on one of our foggy weekend mornings..
The Grand Rapids area offers so much to do this time of year especially if you like to fish and hunt. You have great fall fishing and if you are a grouse, duck, or deer hunter you have awesome opportunities for all that too. If you just like to soak up the fall colors there are lots of beautiful roads to peacefully cruise and take photos.
Sometimes its a struggle for us to figure out which activity to pursue on a given day. Do we go fishing or hunting today? Do we do both? It's a good problem to have when everything is right out your back door.
This weekend, the HLO boys did a little of everything. Some were fishing, some were hunting and some were hanging out with the family. Some stayed close and others ventured out of the area.
Abe Wolf donated his boat and time on Sunday to the Minnesota High School Trail's Bass Tournament of Champions on Bay Lake in Deerwood, MN. Six of the 25 high school teams that qualified for the state championship were from the Grand Rapids Thunderhawks High School Fishing Team. If you are not familiar with this fishing team or program, you will be soon. This is the first year for the Grand Rapids team and it has been a huge success. Big Congrats to the Brainerd Warrior Fishing Team of Joe Stolski and Alex Stirewalt on their impressive win on Sunday. They won a new Lund 1775 Renegade. Two teams from GR finished in the top 10: Easton Fothergill and Tommy Olson took 3rd and Alex Keranen and Kobie Koenig finished in 9th. Awesome job to all the teams that qualified and all the high school fishing programs.
Colt, Topps, and Dylan headed out west this weekend to chase some ducks and bucks. Western Minnesota can offer exceptional early season hunting opportunities and Topper has many years of experience out there. The boys shot some ducks on Saturday morning then transitioned over to bow hunting in the evening. They seen a few small bucks throughout the afternoon, but no does or big boys. Sunday was an all day downpour so the boys checked trail cameras and then headed home early.
Ben Olson fished the Rainy River on Saturday afternoon and reported a phenomenal walleye bite. The shiners are in the river now and the walleyes are hot on their heels. Look for the bite on the Rainy to just get better all month long.
Amos Wolf also reported in from Cass Lake. The walleye fishing was really good in deeper water with a jig rap or jig and minnow. Look for these walleyes to start pushing up shallow as the water temps drop and the shiners start running up the channels and rivers.
Fall is finally here! With fall comes crazy weather and we have sure had our share of it as of late. We enjoyed a stretch of humid 80 degree days, then the rains came thru for a couple, now the sun is shining and the colors are brilliant here in the Grand Rapids area. Yes, if you want to see the fall colors you best get up here within the next week or two.
The MN duck season kicked off this weekend and most enjoyed a good shoot. The weather was very ducky. Majority of hunters harvested wood ducks, teal, and a few mallards.
Grouse hunters are finding fair numbers of birds around the Grand Rapids area. There are definitely pockets of them. One area is proven to be better than another so make a move if you aren't flushing any birds. There is still a lot of underbrush though.
Fishing has been good around the area. Water temps are holding in the low 60s on most water bodies which is higher than normal for this time of year. The fall bite should be right around the corner. A jig and minnow is your goto presentation for most species right now!
Good luck on the water or in the woods. Remember to take a kid outdoors. And most of all.... Be safe and respectful to others and our natural resources!
The 2017 World Walleye Championship was held on Cass Lake this weekend. Most years, this tournament is a MWC qualifier event and we are competing in it. Last year, the Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit announced Cass Lake as the spot for this year's Championship. To make it to the championship, teams must win an event or gather enough points in the series to make the top 40 teams. Qualifying for the chamionship usually involves fishing three MWC events. HLO only fishes one or two MWC events a year. Cass Lake is usually the one we all attend. We joined the crowd this year and watched the championship weigh in. We have to give a big shout out to the Winners this year, Tommy Skarlis and Jeff Lahr. We look up to Tommy and have had the privilige of sitting down and talking to the pro on multiple occassions. This guy is top notch and one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. Congrats man on the win! We couldn't be more proud of you.
As for the HLO action this weekend, we spent our days off in the woods chasing a few ruffed grouse and scouting upcoming bow hunting areas. We also got in some fishing and ran a couple last of the year guide trips. Yes, our guide schedules will soon be replaced with hunting. We have a few more weeks of fishing and then it will be all hunting.
The fishing was good this weekend, but the fall bite is not quite fall yet. Fish are still relating to the weeds and late summer areas. The weeds are still very green and the water temps are hanging in the low 60s. It's gonna be another week or so before we can say we are in a fall fishing pattern. Keep your eyes on your electronics and an open mind while chasing those walleyes this weekend. There are fish shallow and fish deep. They are here one day and gone the next. Try an array of spots this weekend and keep moving around. A jig and minnow should be your goto when fishing the weeds. Look to crawlers and minnows on lindy rigs when targeting the deeper walleyes. A jigging rap should also be one of your goto presentations this weekend when chasing walleyes.
-Pictured in the upper right corner of the blog are a few walleyes from the fishing derby held Saturday.
This weekend always sends a shiver up our spines. Our team has been fishing hard day in and day out since the beginning of May. All of a sudden that cool breeze hits our lungs and our minds turn 180 degrees into hunting mode. No, we don't drop our rods and grab our guns and bows, but our thoughts switch towards grouse, deer, and ducks. It's in our blood. Hunting season means a lot to each and every one of us. You will probably see less of us on the lakes in the next couple weeks, but we will still bring you all a great area report.
Fall fishing is just starting to find its groove!
The water temps are slowly dropping and the fish are starting to move towards their fall locations. Are they there yet? No, they are not. I would say they are testing their waters out right now. Walleye fishing has been good around the Grand Rapids area this week, but you must do a little more searching to find the fish. They are kinda here one day, gone the next. That's fishing right? Our best areas have been steeper shoreline breaks, secondary structures close to shoreline, and weed breaklines still green and holding baitfish. If you spend enough time searching for walleyes with your electronics you will find them.
Well, how do you catch them? Jigging raps and shiver minnows have been our goto presentations this week. A spinner tipped with a crawler is still putting walleyes in the boat during the middle of the day. A jig and minnow or minnow on a lindy rig is also producing during the morning and evening hours. Remember to have a live bait selection with you this time of year. Let the fish tell you what they want.
Look to Leech Lake, Upper Red, Cass, Pokegama, Trout, and Bowstring for your best area walleye bites right now!
Crappies will be moving towards their deeper water locations here in the next couple weeks too. For now, most seem to be still hanging out near the green weeds. Pike are also in the weeds and this is the time to catch a giant.
Pictured in the upper right corner of the blog is Dylan Maki with 'The Godfather' of fishing, Gary Parsons! Thank you so much for the opportunity to share the boat with you.
We hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. The weather was absolutely beautiful.
The majority of the HLO team spent the weekend with family and friends on Cass Lake at Stony Point Resort. The fishing was very good as well as the food and comradery.
It's sad to say that the camping season is over until next year.
Pictured in the upper right of the blog is the Annual Labor Day Fish Fry at Stony Point. Wowza what a crew this year. Thanks to Sean Colter and Dave Hernesman for organizing this turnout. #lund boats #mercury marine #Rays Sport and Marine
Now the kids return to school and we can all take a deep breath and get ready for the hunting season. Right?
Lake Vermilion was the site of the Angler Insight Marketing Pro Walleye Series Minnesota State Championship this past weekend. The two day tournament was held Friday and Saturday, August 25 and 26. As we all know with this tournament, teams are looking for big walleyes to catch, record, and release. Teams will convert their best 5 walleyes to weight at the end of each day. The team with the largest weight at the end of the two days will be crowned AIM MN State Champions.
Fifty five teams qualified to fish this event from past tournaments throughout the series. Two of those teams were Hang Loose Outdoors teams of Randy Topper and Dan Swenson and Joe Bricko and Dylan Maki. AIM teammates of Tyler Wolden and Nate Leininger also qualified. We have worked with Tyler and Nate throughout the AIM circuit this year and can't say enough good things about them. We are proud to call them our friends and have had a very fun season working as a team and sharing info with these guys.
If you follow us on social media then everyone probably knows the results of this tournament so I will keep everything kinda short and sweet.
Day 1 found Tyer Wolden and Nate Leininger sitting in first place with 35.03 lbs. A close second was Dylan Maki and Joe Bricko with 34.67. You might ask, were these guys fishing the same spot or similar program? They were actually fishing totally different programs and complete opposite sides of the lake. Tyler and Nate were vertical jigging on the west side of Vermilion as Joe and Dylan were trolling cranks on the east side. Let me add that Joe and Dylan had a 29.5 and 30.75 inch walleye on Day 1. Yes, Vermilion has some hog walleyes and these guys found them.
Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to a two day tournament. You can't win with only one good day. Two consistent days of 25lbs of walleye can easily win a tournament if the top teams can't repeat their huge day 1 bags. How did Day 2 shape up? Well, the weather threw a curveball on Day 2 as the cool and rainy weather moved thru the area. That didn't affect the winners program though.
Joe and Dylan put together a 30.13 pound bag on Day 2 for 64.80 total pounds (10 walleyes) and won the AIM MN State Championship. They had a program dialed in. They ran #11 flicker minnows at 2.4-2.8 mph on 7'1" JTX Med Light spinning rods (JT Custom Rods). Why on spinning rods? "They said it was faster and more efficient to run them on spinning rods due to their program. They were targeting huge boulders on the east end of the lake and the lures had to be bouncing off rocks. If you got snagged up in the rocks you could just bust your line and grab another rod. It was easier to do this then deal with leadcore, Joe stated." Its always something a little different that wins a tournament.
Tyler and Nate grabbed 2nd place with 55.78 total pounds. They followed their same program from Day 1 on Day 2. They targeted fish on the west side of Lake Vermilion. We are so proud to say that our teams got 1st and 2nd and qualified for the AIM National Championship next spring. Whooooooooo baby!
How about Topper/Swenson? Randy Topper and Dan Swenson had a rough Day 1 so consistency was an issue. They bounced back with a good weight on Day 2.
Here is a little bit from Topper on this year's AIM series:
Congrats to the top 10 at this event!
-Pictured in the upper right corner of this blog are your 2017 AIM MN State Champions! Booooooooom
This coming weekend is the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Minnesota State Championship on Lake Vermilion. Hang Loose Outdoors has two teams that qualified for this event. Dylan Maki and Joe Bricko along with the team of Dan Swenson and Randy Topper are going to give it their all this coming Friday and Saturday during the two day tournament. Let's take a moment to wish them luck. These guys along with a few of the HLO boys have been up at Vermilion since Friday evening prefishing the lake and trying to solve the big walleye puzzle. If you are familiar with the AIM format, you catch, record, and release your best five walleyes each day. You are big fish hunting. The bigger the better. We all know that they grow big in Lake Vermilion. Good luck guys. The weigh in should be live on the 'AIM Pro Walleye Series' facebook page.
We have seen some changes in the weather here in Northern Minnesota this week. A hint of Fall has filled the air. One day the breeze is cool and the next day its beautiful and sunny. Stable weather sure helps the fishing this time of year. This week we have seen good fishing and slow fishing. A couple stable days and the fish bite well. Rainy days have had a negative affect on the fishing especially the walleyes. The cool winds and rain have impacted the water temps and that has slowed the bite. In my opinion, the end of August and the beginning of September can offer the toughest fishing conditions. Eerything is changing. A day of curveball weather has us searching a little harder. The fish aren't hiding, they are just hunkered down.
As far as walleyes go, the weed walleyes have been the most active this week. If you can find them on the edge of the weeds, spinners tipped with crawlers have provided a good bite. The fish in deeper water, on the bars and humps, have actually been a little more tricky to catch. To target these finicky fish, we have actually slowed our presentation down. I first run thru them with a jigging rap. If nothing commits, a traditional lindy rig with a crawler or minnow pulled 0.3 to 0.5 mph seems to trigger a fish or two. Slip bobbers with a plain hook and leech has worked well too especially during and after those cooler weather fronts. Bringing the whole arsenal is crucial this time of year. Speed is key and switching things up will put more walleyes in the boat. There is no one presentation that has outfished the other consistently during mid day hours this week. One fish wants this and the next wants that.
One thing that has been consistent this week is trolling crankbaits during low light periods. Walleyes are spread out and covering water with Salmo hornets and Berkeley flicker shads has been really effective. Trolling cranks on any of the Grand Rapids area lakes in the morning, evening, or at night should result in a meal of eater walleyes. Its been working for us. Experiment off the edge of the weeds and over the top of the bars. If you catch one, go back thru that spot. Repeat this on a few spots and you should have success. Big pike have also been chowing crankbaits. The moon is growing in size and the night bite should only improve this week.
Good luck fishing and good luck to all the teams fishing the AIM Championship this Friday and Saturday on Vermilion.
-Pictured in the upper right corner of the blog is Dylan, Joe, Ben, and Colt enjoying a halibut fry after a day of prefishing on Lake Vermilion. Days spent on the water deserve a good dinner while talking strategy for the following day!
How was your weekend of fishing up in the Northcountry? If you caught fish or if you didn't, I'm sure you had an enjoyable experience. It's tough to beat a weekend up in the Grand Rapids area during the month of August. The weather was mild this weekend making for time outdoors that much more relaxing. That's what its all about; getting outside and enjoying the lake, the woods, the cabin, the camper life with friends and family. Get the kids out fishing or involved with lakelife. Enjoy your time, some hooksets, lots of laughs, and a nice fish fry. That is what our guide service is all about. We provide you with a fun day of fishing between all the other fun things that this area brings. We were on the lake again this weekend showing clients a great time on the water.
Fishing was good this weekend. The walleye bite wasn't spectacular, but we found enough walleye for everyone to have a tasty fish fry. The pike and smallmouth bass kept the rods bent during the walleye search. Walleyes are moving around a lot and being patient and using your electronics is key this time of year. Once you find a good pod of walleyes, spinners tipped with crawlers have been most effective. Jigging rapalas have also worked well. Trolling crankbaits in the evening hours and covering water has also put a fair amount of good walleyes in our Lund boats this past week and weekend. Don't be afraid to mix things up this time of year. If one presentation is not working, try another. Let the fish tell you what they want.
The weather looks rainy, cool, and wet this week but the weekend looks awesome. We will be out on the water having fun and chasing the fish around. Let's go!
-Pictured in the upper right corner of the blog is the Fulton group with a nice half day fishing trip via Hang Loose guides Colt and Randy Topper
Lots of folks refer to August as the 'dogdayz of summer' while conversing along the lines of fishing; walleye fishing in particular. Lake temperatures are warm, weed growth is at its peak, day temps are hot, and most hold a myth in the back of their mind that walleye fishing is so tough this time of year. We here at HLO think the opposite. We love the month of August for walleye fishing.
Yes, August can offer slower walleye fishing, but it can also be exceptionally good with numbers of fish and a big fish here and there if you put your work in. August is called 'our big fish month'. The Grand Rapids area holds a few special bodies of water with moderate to clear water. These lakes take a while to warm up due to their deep and clear consistencies. Once they do heat up, the walleyes get active. Many fishermen hold in their hearts that these clear systems only produce walleyes via hook and line during night time hours. (Night fishing is a great time!) But. "Good luck catching them today with the sun out and no wind", one local stated as I left the dock this weekend. I kinda giggled under my breath. My clients did listen to his words, but within 5 minutes of wetting our lines, his words were ever forgotten.
Patterning walleyes and figuring out exactly what they want to eat this time of year is key. That's the tough part of August walleye fishing. Walleyes' stomachs don't just shut down. They are still eating. Our problem is figuring out where they will be come breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack time. Using our electronics is number ONE to finding them. Number 2, is making them eat using speed, reaction presentations, or possibly a bobber. You have to bring all the tactics out this time of year and carry along all the live bait options from night crawlers to leeches to minnows.
Once you do figure out a hot bite, it usually changes within a couple days. Walleyes are hard to understand and that's why we love chasing them so much. It makes us think, work, scratch our heads, and have a fun time doing so. The days that we are rewarded are the days we as anglers live for. They don't happen very often, but when they do you must take advantage of them. Kick back, share laughs and hooksets, and have a great time on the water. Our guide service is all about having fun on the water while trying to solve the puzzle of catching fish. Let's go!
The beginning of August has been a great month of walleye fishing so far this year. Spinners tipped with crawlers and pulled 1.0-1.2 mph has produced the best bite. At sunset, slip bobbers with leeches are working good. Night trolling Salmo stings and hornets has been effective after dark. The crappie, bass, and northern pike bite has been good around the Grand Rapids area too. There is always something to catch and have fun doing so. Good Luck on the water this weekend.
-Pictured in the upper right corner of the blog is an early August limit of Walleyes from the weekend (Not always easy but it does happen during those so called 'dogdayz of summer')
To say this past week and weekend wasn't packed full of fishing is an understatement. All the HLO boys were on the water and fishing was the name of the game from dark to dark. Colt, Topps, and Brock ran guided fishing trips around the Grand Rapids area as the other HLO boys prefished Lake Superior for the final AIM tournament qualifier of the year. Sunday was the big tournament on Lake Superior.
Let's jump back to the bite in the Grand Rapids area before we go into a few details on the AIM tournament. The weather has been really stable here as we push into August and the bite has been good. The walleye bite is consistent for this time of year. Each outing provides a number of walleyes in the livewell along with a few nice pike and possibly some panfish if we choose to target them. Lots of our clients are walleye oriented and some days we have seen some super good days for this time of year and some average days. Those walleyes are a tough nut to crack in August, but we are going to do our best to put you on the best bite for this area. If you are into catching fish then August is a great time of year to get out fishing. A little of everything is bending the rod.
Spinners tipped with crawlers and ran behind a bottom bouncer are putting the majority of our walleyes in the boat these past two weeks. Reaction bites are still the way to go. The full moon is this coming weekend. Get out there and troll those crankbaits on Pokegama, Wabana, Moose, or Trout. The bite should be good in 8-14 feet of water. What's better than sipping a drink in the moonlight waiting for a tug on the line. In our opinion, night fishing is tough to beat.
Prefishing for the last AIM Weekend Walleye Series qualifier tournament of the year was a bit of a challenge and a learning experience for most of the HLO teams. Dan Swenson and Randy Topper, Dylan Maki and Joe Bricko, and the Wolf Pack (Abe and Amos) all fished Sunday's event. Dan Swenson and Joe Bricko had previous experience on Lake Superior fishing walleyes, but experience didn't seem to matter as the weekend moved closer. The bite was tough. The big lake provided little to no action as stained waters made for almost no bite. A few teams were figuring out a fish or two, but most were zeroing out on the main lake. Teams fishing the St. Louis River were putting walleyes in the boat, but the problem was the size. Small walleyes provided most of the action in the river and we all know for an AIM event, you need big walleyes to win. Like every tournament, with so many good fishermen, someone would put together the puzzle and put the big ones in the boat on tournament day.
Sunday came and 65 boats hit the water out of Barker's Island on Lake Superior. The wind didn't have an effect on where teams fished so everyone headed towards where they had made their game plan for the day. Some boats went to the big lake searching for a couple big bites while others turned south and fished the river. Who would find the big ones? At the end of the day, many walleyes were caught, recorded, and released. Numbers of walleyes were caught in the river, but the majority were on the small side (14-19 inchers). A couple teams including the local team of O'Toole and O'Toole found some big fish in the river. Yes, the tournament was won in the river by father son team, O'Toole. Congrats guys! Berg/Berg were second place. Third place went to Lillemo and Sheldon. Congrats to the top ten teams. As far as the HLO teams went, they would have to settle for the middle of the pack. That was just fine as two of our teams stamped their ticket to the AIM Championship on Lake Vermillion at the end of August. See you all there!
Pictured in the upper right corner of the blog are the team of year standing for this year's Minnesota AIM Division. Notice Dylan Maki and Joe Bricko in 12th and Randy Topper and Dan Swenson in 16th. Go win that Championship boys!
The last AIM Weekend Walleye Series qualifier is this coming weekend on Lake Superior. On Sunday July 30th, three HLO teams will be giving their best shot at the quickly changing conditions of giant Lake Superior. It should be a great learning experience and a very fun tourney. Dan Swenson/Randy Topper, Dylan Maki/Joe Bricko, and Abe and Amos Wolf will be your HLO teams competing. Good Luck guys. Find those huge great lakes eyes.
We spent this past weekend and week guiding in the Grand Rapids area. Our guide schedules were full and they are filling quickly as we push into August. Well, how was the bite? The bite was really good if you are talking about catching fish and having fun. The weather was good and so were the laughs. The multi species bite is awesome around the area right now. If you want to bend the rod then now is the time to get out on the water with us.
A lot of our clients want to catch walleyes so I better talk a little about the walleye action as of late. The past week has been good walleye fishing for this time of year. Everyday has different results, but for the most part our livewells have walleyes in them at the end of the day. How many? Well, that depends. Like I said, everyday is different. Walleyes are unpredictable and they are even more this time of year. Locating walleyes hasn't been the problem. Getting them to bite when you want has been the main situation. That's why it's called fishing. You fish and try to make them bite. Landing on the right fish when they want a snack is key right now. Like I tell my clients, "I wonder if we will be lucky with this school of fish?" If you land on a school of walleyes when they want a snack then you will catch a couple. Then its time to move to another pod. You do that over and over throughout the day and at the end, your meal of fish is looking good. Spinners tipped with a crawler has been the best offering to the walleyes when they decide its snack time. We have been rigging big minnows for big walleyes and also big pike. A couple walleyes over 27 inches have made it into the net this week. Now, that makes the day!
Northern Pike, smallmouth bass, and crappie have also offered good action this week. Working the weeds has kept the smiles on our faces and the rods bent. Northern pike are delicious eaters too. This time of year its not all about walleyes. A fish is a fish and when your drag screams and you do battle, that's what it's all about! Good Luck on the water....
Remember to take time to take a kid fishing.
-pictured in the upper right corner of this blog is Patrick with his personal best walleye from a trip with HLO guide Brock this weekend
This last week most of the Hang Loose crew was preparing for the GRAHA Walleye Shootout fishing tournament on Pokegama lake in Grand Rapids, MN. This year, unlike last year, the days leading up to the tournament offered pretty solid fishing. Most of the anglers were finding walleyes in their usual summer locations. There were fish found on the weed edge, some found on top of mid lake structure and even some located off the edge of mid lake structures. Anglers really had their pick as to what kind of tactic they wanted to use to put walleyes in the boat.
For Ben Olson and I, pre fishing yielded many potential spots. There were plenty of hungry fish and most of our spots gave us the option to pull rigs in long runs or concentrate on a spot on the spot. What I mean by this is simple, there were small pods of fish (4-8 fish) every hundred yards or so. We would work these spots pulling spinners at 1.0-1.3, when that didn't work we would sit on them and slowly work live bait rigs through them. It seemed like we could get a bite or two on one presentation before it went dead and we would have to switch to something else to draw another bite. Our goto depth was shallow, weed lines and cabbage from 12-16 feet of water seemed to hold the most active fish. We did have a few big fish spots off the edges of those mid lake structures, but they weren't as consistent as the weeds.
Knowing how many schools of semi active fish there were in our spots, we weren't too concerned with filling our card of five fish come Saturday. Our plan was simple, fish the morning hours for a couple big bites, run and gun to fill the card, and then sit on our big fish spots the rest of the day. We were ready, our boat was filled with leeches, crawlers, creek chubs, jigging raps, and everything else you could imagine you may use to catch a walleye.
As we made our way out off the gates as boat number 50, we began to wonder if our big bites would come easy or if we would have to work harder than we did pre fishing to fool a big walleye into committing to our presentation. Arriving at our first spot we had tons of confidence as it didn't take more than a few seconds to start marking giant arcs. Our fish were there! BUT.... they did not want to eat.. We fished everything we had through them for the first hour and a half but did not get a single walleye bite. Ben and I knew we would have to have a full card to think about top 10 so we made the decision to abandon our first big fish spot and run and gun until we had a full card. While cruising our second spot I saw 3 fish suspended in 16 feet on the weed edge, I slammed the boat into reverse, simultaneously pitching my jig rap behind the boat. On my second snap the fish was on, nearly an 18 incher hit the net, our first fish. Heading to our second spot we found a few fish hanging off the secondary break on a mid lake point. Working these fish with some speed we were able to bang a 26 ¼ inch and a 18 ¾ inch walleye within minutes.
Ok, so 3 fish by 9:30, that was the start we intended. After that, the bite went dead. We continued to cruise spot after spot with almost zero fish showing up on the Lowrance. Where did they go? They were just here the past 4 days! Obviously something changed drastically from the day before so we began to pull spinners over our spots, just a little shallower than the previous day. Still, absolutely nothing. Knowing that one of our spots still held some fish we decided to stick to that spot and grind it out the rest of the day. We had 3 and a half hours to get two fish and hopefully upgrade a couple small ones. We ran many different presentations over our fish, which had seemed to triple in numbers from the morning. We managed to get 4 bites in that spot in the remaining few hours, 2 of those fish hit the net and two managed to pop off half way up. Feeling less than confident that we had enough weight to grace the stage, we arrived back at check in hearing stories of teams struggling and not filling their card. Soon after, that confidence rose as we had the heaviest weight of anyone we talked to. Let me tell you, getting the call from the GRAHA staff informing us that we made top 10 was one of the best feelings I've ever had tournament fishing! We were going to pull the Lund through the arena and get on stage with the rest of the top 10 finishers!
When it was all said and done Benny and I had enough to lock up 2nd place and the highest placing Lund/Mercury team! What a great tournament to be a part of, the energy of the weigh in was unforgettable. Congratulations to the HLO team of Amos and Abe Wolf with a respectable 8th place finish, Jason Freed and Chuck Hasse 3rd place, Sean and Dave Hernesman in 6th place and Dave Nikkel and Nate Reed in 10th. Great Job guys! Also, a big congrats to the winners: Tim Graupmann and Larry Estebo! Thanks Rays Sport and Marine for everything you do for us! A shout goes out to JT Outdoor Products, Mercury Marine, Lund Boats, Brad Nelson Thrivent Financial, ReelBait Tackle, Maki Body and Glass, and all our other sponsors as well, we couldn't do it without you! Also a huge thanks goes to Grand Rapids State Bank and all the other businesses that support this awesome tournament! It couldn't be everything it is without you supporting it!
written by Colt
We always look forward to July as fishing guides. Why? The big fish always seem to bite in July. It's not everyday the big fish bite and they don't come in numbers, but if you work for them you will be rewarded with a few giants here and there. Why do they bite in July?
Big walleyes, pike, and bass really start roaming once the water temps heat up. They are not keying in on small meals. They are looking for a large meal. Baitfish start to roam as well and get spread out in a lake. It's easier for a big fish to get a big meal then it is to expend a lot of energy chasing around a couple small meals. This is where we come in as anglers.
We use our electronics on our Lund boats to search for big archs on main lake structure. Once we locate some big fish, our game plan is simple. Some days it works and other days you have to spend some time making them bite. Either or, if you put your time in, rewards are high when targeting big fish. A big fish brings smiles to everyone. A hookset followed by a bending rod and screaming drag is like no other feeling. Fishing is all about the chase, the fight, and the high fives. Pictures are worth a thousand words and this month is a great time to bring the camera.
I said big fish like a big meal right? Well, a large creek chub or sucker minnow on a lindy rig will catch big fish. It is a simple presentation and that is what we use to target big fish. Dropping this rig down on big fish below your boat takes a little practice. Once you locate some big fish, back your boat off a little, drob your rigs down to bottom and slowly work through those big marks you found. If you don't get bit, try going through them again. Maybe alter your speed a touch or hit them from a different direction. Staying on the fish and working them will usually provide a bite. If you don't get bit, it might be time to go find another big mark or two. If you do get bit, feed a little line to the fish (20 seconds is plenty) and then set the hook. FISH ON! Remember once the fish is in the net, remove the hook, or cut the line in a fast manner, take a quick fish, and get it back into the water as quick as you can. Don't fumble with the fish in the bottom of the boat. Big fish need to get back into the water as quickly as possible.
We spent the later part of this week and weekend targeting big fish with clients around the Grand Rapids area. Fishing was great and the big ones did cooperate. Our guide service has always operated on striving to get our clients big fish. We love watching your eyes light up when the hogs hit the net. A bunch of big walleyes (24-27 inchers) did hit the nets this week and weekend and there were lots of smiles and happy fishermen. A couple big pike made the rods bend this week too including a giant pushing 40 inches. This fish was one of the largest open water pike I have seen in years and the angler who caught it was a 11 year old named Ben. This fish will always be a highlight in this young boys life and in mine too. I remember when I was a boy and would catch a 5 pound pike. That would make my summer. A 20 pound fish will probably be hard to beat Ben.
For now, we will be guiding and prefishing for next weekend's GRAHA Walleye Shootout on Pokegama Lake. Good Luck on the water this week and remember: take a kid fishing every opportunity you can!
We look forward to the Fourth of July each and every year here at Hang Loose Outdoors. What does the 4th of July mean to you? Is it fireworks, camping, boating, tubing, fishing, or hanging out with family and friends? Yes, all of those come to mind, but we must all remember the true reason for the 4th. The 4th also known as 'Independence Day' or 'America's Birthday' is the day we seperated from Great Britian in 1776 and became the United States of America. We hope you all have a fun and safe 4th of July!
The weekend before the 4th of July was exceptionally busy for the HLO crew. July in general is a crazy busy month for us. Our guide schedules are booked on the heavy side and we are trying to sneak in some time with family and friends all at once. Yes, the grass at home might grow a little out of control, but we usually know where the fish are biting.
This weekend was spent putting smiles on clients faces once again. We guided on a variety of area lakes: Pokegama, Trout, Deer and on the river. Colt and Dylan made a day trek to Mille Lacs on the Thursday before the weekend. Wow, did they hammer some hog walleyes on the big pond. The fishing has been unbelievable down there this year! Peeps are litterally catching fish left and right, up and down, and around by the 100s. We won't get into the controversy of the lake, but the walleye catch-n-release season and the live bait season closes next week for 3 weeks. Fishermen can only fish for bass and pike with artificials. We will be back to the pond once it opens again at the end of July.
The walleye bite around the Grand Rapids area has been good and steady also. We have been putting some big walleyes in the boat on each guide trip. Our deep clear lakes are providing great action right now. If you want quality walleyes, now is the time to book a fishing trip with us. Give us a call today. We have plenty of guides available to accommodate any and all your needs!
Have a great 4th of July...... Remember to be safe! Tight Lines
Some cooler weather and more rain and storms rolled through the Grand Rapids area this weekend. It didn't seem to effect the walleyes much. The wind made things a little tough, but we still put plenty of fish in the boats.
Electronics are very important as fish push out off the shorelines on our area lakes. Using our Garmin electronics, we cruise the lake looking for schools of fish before we even drop our lines. This was easy this weekend while guiding around the Grand Rapids area. The walleyes we found were anywhere from 12 to 27 feet of water. When we located a school of fish, we would work through them with crawlers and leeches on lindy rigs. Sometimes these fish wanted the baits moving slow and others wanted them faster like 1.2mph. We would catch a few fish out of each school then move onto the next school. A heavier weight (1/2-3/4 egg or lindy no snag) made fishing in the wind and staying on the congregated schools of fish easier. Heavier weights keep your bait in the strike zone for longer periods. This surely put more walleyes in the livewell this weekend.
Last week Brock's You Tube tip was using a half crawler over a full crawler when the mayfly and bug hatch happens on our area lakes. The mayfly hatches are evident on most of our lakes right now. It is winding down, but the fish continue to focus on those bugs hatching off the bottom for their main food source. A half crawler was key again this weekend while guiding. Try this tactic with a small spinner in front or on a slow death hook.
Brock and Topper guided north of Grand Rapids this weekend and had a fun two days with the Eagle Lake Crew. This group of guys/girls were a blast. When the laughs and jokes keep going as the day progresses our job is all fun. Fishing was nothing short of exciting. We caught plenty of beautiful walleyes during our two days on the water with them. We hope you guys had a delicious fish fry on Saturday night.
Colt and Dylan also ran a few guide trips on local lakes this week and weekend and put some big walleyes in the boat. A few over 26 inches were caught photo and released.
Another great weekend of putting smiles on clients faces.
We look forward to the Angler Young Angler Tournament each and every year on Pokegama Lake. What is the Angler Young Angler (AYA)? The Angler Young Angler are fishing tournaments that are held around the Midwest that allow one adult and two kids(under 18) to compete at a tournament fishing level. These tournaments are usually held during the summer months. Follow the link to find the AYA tournaments near you. It is another great way to get kids out fishing and have fun. We highly recommend them. We have a blast every year.
This year bass was the target species again for the Pokegama Lake AYA. Last year was the first year switching from walleye to bass and the anglers loved the challenge. A few walleye teams dropped from the tournament, but quite a few bass teams joined the tourney roster. The number of boats this year was on the lower side, but the weights were HIGH. Bass brought to the scales on Saturday were almost jaw dropping. The biggies were biting and it seemed that the kids found them. Posted on the top of the blog picture is the top 10 from Saturday's AYA on Pokegama Lake. Rick Jansen and kids took first place with 5 bass weighing 19.42 lbs. Wowzers
We here at HLO can't stress how important it is to take a kid fishing. Get them involved with the outdoors and have fun. This tournament is a blast and will continue to be. Grab a couple kids next year and plan to fish this event. All the kids get prizes at the end of the day no matter if you are first or last. The smiles you see at the end of the day and during the weigh in are priceless.
Mark it on your calendar for the 2nd or 3rd weekend in June 2018.
We are on the water hard this week guiding and putting more smiles on people's faces. Tight lines to all.
The AIM Weekend Walleye Series visited Walker, MN this weekend. Two back to back tournaments were held on legenedary Leech Lake June 10th and 11th with a full 100 boat field both days. Why back to back AIM events? Well, the original 2017 schedule included an event on Mille Lacs Lake in July. Mille Lacs regulations came out later and the lake is closed to targeting walleyes when the tournament was actually scheduled. AIM officials moved the Mille Lacs date to Leech Lake on June 10th.
Four HLO boats fished the AIM events over the weekend. Team Topper/Swenson and Maki/Bricko fished both days. Craig King fished both events too but with different partners. Day 1 he fished with the grease, Dan Neary. Day 2 he paired sticks with Jake Mutchler. Abe and Amos Wolf joined the AIM for the second day. Abe and Amos fished the Knights of Columbus Walleye Tournament on Saturday along with team Colt Anderson/Ben Olson.
I grabbed a couple summaries from Topper and Dylan that I will use to sum up the AIM events with:
Mike Tyson said, "a plan is only good until you get punched in the face". Dan Swenson and I got punched in the face Saturday when 10:30AM rolled around and things just weren't looking right in our spots so we went for a long boat ride to try and swing for a home run. The new scramble plan almost worked but we missed the few bites we needed to make it worth while. Sunday we shook it off, dug our heals in and stuck with the plan. We ended up 12th today (Sunday) against 100 teams of some of the best anglers built for this stuff. Every tournament I end up looking around before take off slack jawed at all these elite anglers thinking how the heck does a guy even stand a chance. It's pretty darn cool to end up coming out ahead of even one of these teams for a day let alone 12th place. Over the moon thankful for a great weekend on the water and looking forward to the next one.- Randy Topper
Wow, what an awesome week on Leech Lake figuring out a big girl program. I don't remember the last time my boat has landed this many fish over 26 inches. Both days Joe Bricko and I finished in the top 20% of the field ( ounces away day 2 ) which is pretty darn good. We were one upgrade both days away from cashing a check! Congrats to everyone who placed with all of the huge bags Leech Lake put out this weekend! Oh and this is the best set of coon eyes I've had yet!- Dylan Maki
Abe and Amos Wolf (Wolf Pack) finished 25th place in Sunday's AIM Event. Craig King and partners were around half pack both days. Overall, Leech Lake kicked out some big bags and anglers took advantage of it. Weighing 5 fish (Catch, Photo, Release) for mid 30lbs is outstanding. Leeh Lake is a healthy fishery.
Jump forward to Saturday's Knights of Columbus Walleye Tournament on Lake Bemidji. According to Colt/Ben and the Wolf Pack, the bite was slower than normal on Lake Bemidji for Saturday's derby. 100 boats competed for a total first place purse of $12,500. Colt and Ben put 20 plus walleyes in the boat on Saturday, but the big walleyes once again eluded them. Those big ones are important and a little luck too. The Wolfs struggled just like three-quarters of the field did. Congrats to Aaron Murphy on 2nd place.
We are full on fishing guide mode now as the tournament season takes a halt for a couple weeks.
Mille Lacs Walleye Report- Forrest Leitch
The big pond is poppin! Drove 6 hours round trip yesterday (June 10th) just to fish for about 5 hours and it was well worth it. Ended up with 50 on the clicker by 10pm.
Lots of those 16 inchers with a few more solid bigger fish mixed in.
Early in the evening we rigged leeches on the deep edge of rocky/gravel structure in 18-22ft. A long snell seemed to produce better than short, 6-8ft was good.
As the sun got closer to the treetops we slid up on top of that same structure and found lots of active fish up in 12-16ft. Wind speed was perfect for making drifts over structure.
Closer to dark we switched up to a shallow trolling bite pulling small cranks in 7-12ft.
Multiple doubles throughout the evening and even one triple, if you're looking to get new fishermen or kids out, head to Mille Lacs, you can catch em almost however you'd like.
The Leech Lake Walleye Tournament was held this past weekend. This two day tournament seen 155 two person teams compete for a top prize of $15,200. With Leech Lake as healthy as its been with walleyes and the top walleye fishermen in the state competing, we knew we had our work cut out for us. We always do on this tournament. Four HLO teams competed in the event.
Let me go over the rules real quick. Each boat (team) is allowed to weigh six fish per day. One of these six fish can be over 26 inches. Anglers have to abide by the slot limit which is 20-26 inches. Walleyes have to be greater than 14 inches to weigh. So each boat can bring in 6 walleyes from 14-19.99 inches or 5 from 14-19.99 and one over 26. The ideal bag of fish that each boat chases is one big one at 28 inches or so and 5 around 19.75 inches. That would be the perfect bag.
I will do my best to recap our (Team Brock and Topper) two days on the water. Colt and Dylan fished together as well as Abe and Amos Wolf and Craig and Jake Mutchler.
Topper and I spent day 1 grinding away in Walker Bay on two different spots. These spots didn't hold many fish but they held both over 26" fish and under 20 inchers. The morning started off really slow for us. We put our first walleye in the livelwell around 9:30AM. The second one came an hour later and then the third came around 11AM. The third fish to the livewell was the very important over fish. This 26.5 inch walleye was celebrated with a few high fives and a couple butt slaps. Yep, the ones you see baseball players give one another after a home run. Topper landed a home run with that 26.5 incher. The fourth fish came tougher as well as the fifth and sixth. By the end of the day, we were pretty happy with our bag. We figured we would be in the top ten and striking distance for the second day.
We arrived to the weigh in and our good bag we thought we had wasn't as good as we figured. Ol Leech Lake gave up some big weights on Day 1 and Topper and I weighed 12.97 pounds for 25th place. Wow, we had some work to do to cut a check on the second day. Abe and Amos Wolf weighed 14.97 lbs and found themselves in 12th after day 1. Colt and Dylan didn't find the important over and found themselves mid way thru the pack of anglers. Craig and Jake had an over in their bag, but didn't have much for unders.
Big fish are important in these walleye tournaments but the unders are too. Strategy and decisions, stress and time, should we move, should we stay; all factor into the short 8 hours on game day. Yes, a little luck proves strong too.
The HLO teams sat around the fire Saturday night and chatted about the plan for day 2. It seemed to me that no one was quite certain on their plan for the morning. The weather was to be about the same as was the wind. We all slept on it.
The National Anthem rang out over Leech Lake that morning as the sun glimmered off the flag and all anglers waited patiently for the clock to hit 7. Topper and I decided to stick with our plan and go grind out the same spot as we fished day 1. We arrived there and started working. The fish in this spot didn't show up on the graph because it was a mud spot. We just had to fish it and find out if they were there or not. Topper put the first one in the box, a nice plump 19 incher. I followed that up with a 20.75 that went back to swim another day. I then caught a fatty of a 19.75 incher. Topper followed that up with a 19.5 incher. Our fish were coming in perfect order. We just needed 2 more 19s and an over. Easy right?
Our bite slowed a lot and with three fish in the livewell we began to scratch our heads. An hour or more went by without a bite. Should we move. Should we run out to the main lake? All of a sudden Topper noticed that the fish had slid up into shallow water on his Lowrance graph. There was a load of yellow arcs in 8-12ft. I grapped another JT rod rigged with a jig and slapped a shiner minnow on it. I fan casted and started plucking off a walleye every other cast. It took no time to put a mess of walleyes in the well. Topper worked his crawler and for a half hour and the JTs were bending and the net was flying. We culled fish and giggled as we went looking for a few more 19 inchers. Then things died as fast as our window had arrived. We now had 3-17 inchers to go along with our 3-19s. We kept at it with nothing to show until 1PM rolled around and Topper stuck a 18.5 incher. Once that fish hit the net, we decided it was time to get out and run to one of our big fish spots looking for that over.
We were tense as we hooked on big creek chubs and soaked an inside bend in Walker Bay. We both knew we needed that big fish to make the money. After about an hour in that spot we decided it was time to try one more spot before we had to burn back to weigh in. We organized the boat. I pulled the trolling motor up and we both strapped on our life vests. Topper started the Mercury 200 and then said, "I got another one of those 14 inchers holding onto my big creeker." I noticed the end of his rod getting pecked like a perch. "Im just going to set the hook," he mumbled. When he set the hook, my eyes flew open. Topper's JT custom rod folded over like he had a whale. "This is no 14 incher", Topps slowly said under his breath. I grabbed the net and began to shake. As he fought the fish, we both didn't say a word. Finally a glimmer of walleye showed under the surface. Still no words. It surfaced and I missed it with the net. Then it came up again and I put the net around it. Still no words. Topps put it on the bump board and I said, "It's over". We measured that fish again and again. It was just a hair over 26 inchers. We had a decision on our hands. With one hour left to fish, do we fish and try to get another 19 or do we play it safe and run in and get this big fish weighed in before it possibly shrinks?
We played it safe and slowly boated into weigh in, shaking and high fiving the whole way back. Topper and I have had some close call measurements while tournament fishing over the years and this one looked good, but you never know until the weigh master measures it.
To make a long story short, Toppers fish measured just over 26 inches and we weighed 16.24 pounds on day 2. It was enough to claim 4th place for the 2 day event. We were pumped.
Congrats to friends Chuck Hasse and Jason Freed on 1st place!
Abe and Amos Wolf took home 16th place.
Other Grand Rapids teams had strong finishes too. Sean Colter and Dave Hernesman 3rd place by a hair over us. Cory and Dayton Jahn 2nd place.
To finish in the top 10 at this tournament means a lot. You look around at the experienced anglers and you just wonder how you are gonna beat them on this giant body of water. Thanks Topps for coming up clutch! Thanks to Dan Swenson for helping us prefish leading up to the tourney. We owe you. Congrats to all the anglers and thanks to all our sponsors. Remember, it's never over till it's over! Keep your lines in the water and good things will happen.
What does Memorial Day Weekend mean to you? Do you think of camping, fishing, and spending time with family? Does it mean the kids are almost out of school and summer has began? Do you think of the men and women who have served this country to let us all enjoy the things we love to do? Lets take a moment to thank them!
We hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Weekend. The weather forecast was a bit off as another cold front rolled through the Grand Rapids area on Saturday afternoon. It was a breezy and cool weekend. It could have been better, but it could have been worse. We all enjoyed the three and for some, four day weekend.
All the Hang Loose boys were camping with their families and friends this weekend. It's pretty much tradition to go camping on Memorial. We had a blast. The kids had fun. Everyone caught a few fish. We ate good food and shared lots of laughs around the campfire.
Now we are off to Leech Lake to start prefishing for the Leech Lake Walleye Tournament next Saturday and Sunday, June 3rd and 4th. We will be guiding a few fishing trips out on Leech this week too.
The walleyes were spread out from shallow water to deeper secondary structures this past weekend. Finding a nice size school of fish was tough. It was easier to catch a few fish here then move on. There are a lot of pike, perch, and walleyes in the weeds right now. If you are looking to bend a few rods and have a fun day then fish the weeds. Now is the time of year to have a variety of bait in the boat for those walleyes: shiner, night crawlers, and leeches. You never know what they are gonna want. Good luck.
The weather rolled a 180 as we pulled into Bemidji mid week. The weekend prior which was the MN fishing opener was sunny and beautiful, but then things decided to change. It was now windy, raining, and cold. We wondered how this would affect the fishing? As walleye guides and tournament anglers, your head is constantly thinking about what the walleyes are going to do next. How is the weather going to change their location? Are they going to feed at all? Should we throw the kitchen sink at them or just slow our presentations down?
Prefishing for the Gary Newell Eagles tournament on Lake Bemidji went fair. We didn't catch a lot of walleyes on Thrursday and Friday, but the ones we caught were nice ones to have in the bag for Saturday. Dylan Maki and Randy Topper were paired up as HLO Team 1 and Brock Anderson and Colt Anderson were paired up as HLO Team 2.
Saturday offered similar cool wet weather as we sat amongst 140 (70 boats) local Lake Bemidji stud walleye fishermen waiting to start. The anglers who fish this tournament know the lake inside out, up and down, and all around. This is the lake they spend their lives fishing. They know what spots to fish if its an ENE wind and what to do if that changes to a straight east wind. They have fished it in every cold front condition. If you don't bring your 'A' game to this one, you my as well just hand your money over to the boats before the national anthem.
We love fishing against these guys because they are phenomenal sticks and we learn so much from each tournament.
Colt and Brock had a plan to fish the non windy side of the lake and grind a spot they caught a bunch of overs (over 20") on during practice. Dylan and Topper headed to an inside wind driven corner on the west side of the lake. At blast off, we were surprised that 80% of the boats headed to the west shore. Well, imagine that, it was an east wind. Fish the windy side of the lake for walleyes right?
I won't go into detail about each of the team's day, but I will say, neither boat had a big bag at the end of the day. Both had one big fish, but not their full 5 fish limit. Their plans both worked, they just didn't get enough bites. The morning bite sounded like it was the only thing that was going for most teams. The top ten boats had good fish almost right away in the morning. That is when the HLO teams caught their fish too. So all in all we shoulda been on more morning walleyes right? That's fishing.
At the weigh in, we were surprised with word that Dylan and Randy had weighed in the biggest walleye of the tournament. Big fish award for HLO. Topper and Dylan were awarded trophies and $1000 in cash for their 5.75 pound walleye. Now, that pays the weekend! (That is our second big fish prize on Lake Bemidji in the last 5 years.)
Congrats to all the top 10 teams at this derby. You guys are awesome sticks. You amaze us every tournament we fish. Jason Rylander, Chad Benson, Dan Fuller, all Bemidji anglers
We will be guiding this week around the Grand Rapids area and then heading to Leech Lake to start prefishing for the Leech Lake Classic...
We hope you all had a fun and successful MN fishing opener!
We can't remember a better MN fishing opener than the one we experienced this past weekend. The weather was absolutely beautiful. A normal opener usually brings snow, sleet, and wind to the northland. This weekend we seen temperatures over 70 degrees. Sunday was a bit windy, but it was sunny and dry. The fishing was good for the HLO crew as well as most anglers we talked to. All in all a great opener.
We were spread out around the area this past weekend soaking up sun and laughs with friends and family. Here are a few short reports of where most of us were this weekend. Topper and Swenson fished Cass Lake for opener and had awesome fishing. The morning walleye bite was super good on Cass. Dylan, Colt, and Ben stayed at the Maki Cabin for the traditional Maki opener and reported a good walleye bite from Upper Red Lake also. The jig and minnow bite was really good in the morning. When the action slowed on Red in the afternoon, they switched over to trolling cranks and that was the ticket. Brock, Godfrey, Neary, the Wolfs, and Craig King all fished Leech on Saturday. The walleye fishing wasn't awesome, but it was consistent. Staying away from the crowds and focusing on new growth weeds were the best. Snap jigging a 1/8 ounce jig tipped with a shiner or fathead worked best. A lot of big fish were boated on Leech this weekend. You had to move around to find the schools of eaters. Look for Leech to offer the best bite this week.
Look for the walleye bite to be shallow this week and for the remainder of the month. With water temps in the mid to upper 50s, the shiners are moving shallow to spawn. This means the walleyes will be where the bait is. Work the wind blown points and inside corners in 4-8 ft of water when its windy. If the wind is minimal focus on that secondary break in 10-15 foot. Use you electronics to find the bait and those walleyes will be close. A jig tipped with a minnow will be your goto for the next few weeks too.
The crappies are shallow spawning on most of the area lakes. Now is a great time to get the kids out and catch some big crappies. Tie on a 1/32 ounce jig and twister tail under a bobber and go into the shallow bays. The crappies are in their classic spawning areas. Remember to let the big ones go and only keep enough for a meal. Releasing the females means the population will be there for years to come. Get those kids out fishing no matter if its crappie fishing or jigging for walleyes. Let them bend a rod and put a smile on their face.
We are off to Lake Bemidji this weekend for the Lake Bemidji Eagles Walleye Tournament. Good Luck to everyone fishing this event!
This past weekend was an eventful one. The HLO team was spread out from Hager City, WI up to Grand Forks, MN and all the way across to Baudette MN. That's some coverage. The AIM Weekend Walleye Series kicked off our tournament season on Sunday on the Mississippi River in Hager City, WI. A couple of the hlo boys chased big catfish on the Red River and the Wolf pack headed back up to the Rainy River to try and top the 70 inch sturgeon mark from the weekend prior.
I (Brock) had to work all weekend and was constantly entertained with pictures and highlights from the boys. The fish were biting and the pictures were rolling. I don't know how many pictures and videos flooded facebook and my phone throughout Saturday and Sunday, but it kept me on my toes. I'm thinking it's going to be tough to choose one for this weekend's blog. Between the catfish that Forrest, Colt, and Kraft caught on the Red River to the giant sturgeon that the Wolf kids hauled in, to AIM takeoff pics and results; where do I begin?
Forrest Leitch is our newest pro staffer and every weekend this kid amazes me and sends a well known smile out to the fishing world. He does it all and he's darn good at what he does. Colt and Kraft headed over to Grand Forks on Saturday for a day of catfishing with Forrest. I'm gonna say they hammered them because I've never seen so many big kitty cat pics in one day. They caught a couple cats over 20 pounds and numerous from 10 to 20 pounds. That is awesome for Minnesota. Way to go boys. (Please visit HLO facebook or Forrest Leitch facebook to see all their cat pics)
The AIM tournament on Mississippi's Pool 3 and 4 dealt anglers a tough bite. With strong current and high water, fishing and catching was difficult for the 90 boat field. As in every tournament someone always figures it out. Good fishermen fish tournaments for a reason. It's to have fun and put their knowledge to the test. It's to learn and improve upon their game. Some tournaments are meant for these guys and other for those. But in the end, we are all better cause we learned.
Well, Randy Topper and Dan Swenson went into Sunday's event hoping to rack up points for the AIM Championship at the end of the year. Yes, a win would be awesome too, but prefishing didn't sound like it was very good for them. Dylan Maki and Joe Bricko also sounded like they had about the same game plan. Catch some fish, have fun and hopefully put a fair amount of points on the AIM board. At the end of the day, both teams came out feeling good with their performance. Randy and Dan took 15th place and Dylan and Joe 23rd place out of the 90 boat field. They should have good points going into the next qualifier on Leech Lake in June. Both teams expressed having a ton of fun prefishing and during the tournament. Thats what its all about.
The Wolf pack didn't catch a 70 inch sturgeon on the Rainy River this weekend, but they got awful close. Their biggest on Saturday was 69.5" with a 31.5" girth. Jack Wolf (Abe's son) caught a 68"x30". Way to go Jack. That kid is hooked. I'm not sure if hes gonna be breaking 'the biggest fish of my life' anytime soon after that one.
As we all know, the MN Fishing Opener is this weekend. BE SAFE! Good luck and see you on the water. Carry on those traditions and have a blast.
As most of us target sturgeon or get our gear and boats ready in preparation for the Minnesota Fishing Opener, HLO pro staffer Forrest Leitch is reeling in hog kitty cats like the one pictured here. If you have never targeted cat fish, you better plan on giving it a shot. They offer an amazing fight and also are great table fare. If there is one man who can show you the ropes of cat fishing it's Forrest. Here is a great informational article by the man.
Big channel cats on the Red are just starting to fire up right now, and arguably the best bite of the season is just around the corner. This is a perfect opportunity to bend a rod on some tankers before the MN walleye season opens. Here are some basics for Red River chans.
Location: Catfish will utilize different parts of the river channel throughout the season, and may change their position in the river day by day, so it's important to try multiple areas throughout the channel to dial in what the fish are using. Try inside bends, outside bends, holes, riffles, and current breaks. If you notice one type of area or structure tending to hold more active fish than another, focus on finding similar areas as you go down the river.
Gear: A "light sturgeon" rod is about perfect for big cats. My catfish arsenal consists of 7' heavy action musky rods topped with round baitcasters. This provides plenty of beef to keep fish from going into the timber, while still being light enough to get a good bend in the rod. I run 30lb mono mainline and 20lb mono leader. I like to run mono for the stretch, because the rods will be in a holder most of the time, and it helps keep a fish pinned when the rod is sitting in the holder. Your basic setup will be a sliding bottom rig with a 2-5oz. no roll sinker, a swivel, a leader, and a medium-large circle hook. I highly recommend circle hooks as opposed to any other type of single or treble hook. The fish set themselves with circle hooks in the corner of the mouth 95% of the time.
Bait: Big channel cats are at the top of the food chain in the Red, and once they get over a couple pounds they chow fish. Goldeye are very abundant in the Red and are my preferred choice of bait most of the season. I cut whole goldeye from head to tail into about 6 or 8 pieces, then lightly hook a piece onto your circle hook with a lot of hook exposed. Late summer when water temps peak, frogs are a good choice, as well as right after a heavy rain when frogs may have been washed off the bank into the river. Play around with a variety of baits until you dial in the preference of the fish.
Methods: Once you've identified a good looking snag or hole you'd like to fish, anchor just upstream and cast just above the target. This allows the current to pull the bait's scent to the fish, who will come out of the structure and move upstream to grab your bait. Ignore any small nibbles or bites, these are just small cats and other small fish. Any cat over 5 pounds will be immediately obvious, a 15+ pounder will make it difficult to get the rod out of the holder. Make sure your drag is set at a moderate level, they don't mess around.
Be sure to change it up during the day when it comes to bait, channel position, leader length, etc. to figure out what they want. Don't spend any longer than 30 minutes at any given spot, if there are fish present they will usually come to the scent of your bait sooner than later.
Big cats will bite all summer, but the prespawn action can be very good with some very fat fish, so get out there and catch some kitties!!
How does that go? If it comes in like a lamb it will go out like a lion? I believe it's something alone those lines. Well, April came in like a lamb and it's going out like a lion. We have been spoiled with awesome weather the whole month now we seen snow, wind, rain, and cold weather come through this weekend and it looks to be sticking around all week.
I just remembered, I believe that phrase, "come in like a lamb and go out like a lion" is actually for the month of March. (Stupid me) I think we should apply it to April now because March was super nice also. Whatever! There is no reason to complain. Our early spring has been beautiful.
This past Friday and Saturday were nice around Grand Rapids. A few of us HLO boys got out and did some crappie fishing around the area. Fishing wasn't great but it was good enough to keep us interested. Topper got into some nice crappies on Friday evening and then again on Saturday morning before the weather really started turning.
Water temperatures were just starting to poke 50 degrees on Saturday. The crappies were just beginning to test out some shallower water areas. Most of the fish we caught were out off the breaks but we did manage to find a few up shallower that were testing out the waters. Now, I guarantee this weather has them all pushed back out into the deeper water.
Crappies and all panfish in general are relatively finicky this time of year. A one or two degree change in water temp can mean the difference between crappies in 5 feet of water or down on the bottom of the break in 30 feet. Pay close attention to the water temps and the air temps. When crappies are just starting to move into their spawning grounds, they can be there one evening and gone the next. Once they are there, doesn't mean they are staying. Once the surface temps stay above 58 degrees, they will probably be more likely to stay. Fifty to fifty-five degrees is when they can be there one day and a cold front can push them out the next.
If you find them and they are biting, remember to only keep the ones that will make a good meal. Don't be greedy. Bring the kids and practice catch and release. Some of my fondest memories as a kid are fishing crappies in the spring with my Dad. It's something about that bobber going down, laughs, smiles, and fish slime!Hopefully this weather will turn around next week and the water temps will heat back up again. For now, stay warm and get those boats ready!
PS: The smelt have been running on Pokegama this past week! Eat what the walleyes eat. Got to enjoy a meal this weekend.
We have been covering the Spring Rainy River walleye run almost exclusively for the last month on our website blogs, facebook, and on twitter. The Rainy River is an awesome fishery in the spring and there's not many places that offer anglers better fishing for big walleyes this time of year. The Rainy River is also an ever changing system during the spring. It can provide anglers with a great bite one day then shut down for a week in a flip of a light switch. Understanding this system can make your planning that much more rewarding when you do head north for the spring.
If you followed our blog, you know that the end of March provided good walleye action on the Rainy. That action diminished during early April as the river muddied up and the current ramped up. It took about a week to 10 days to clear up and then the last couple days of the season offered an awesome bite.
We predicted the walleye fishing to shut down if you followed our previous blogs. What casuses the river to shut down? When the Bigfork and Little Fork Rivers bust open, debris and cold water flow directly into the Rainy River. This water turns the Rainy into a cold glass of chocolate milk full of sticks, logs, leaves, and whatever else you can imagine. Walleyes can't distinguish your jig and minnow from all the other chaos on the bottom. You also have a hard time presenting your jig to those stubborn walleyes.
As the debris flows down river and the system clears itself, more walleyes enter the system. Their mission is to get up the river to spawn. Once the river is clear then the fishing picks back up. If the river conditions are good enough before season ends, this is when you want to be fishing. The last few days of season mean more and bigger walleyes in the river.
The river cleared up mid week and four HLO boats fished the last two days of the spring season. The fishing was awesome and all of us caught multiple hog walleyes over 27 inches. Forrest Leitch caught the biggest fish between all of us, a beast of a 30.5 inch. Congrats Forrest on your personal best walleye.
Just remember to follow the reports next year. Understand when the Little and Bigfork will break lose and plan your trip as late into the season as possible. The Rainy River doesn't reward the 'Early Bird'. The 'Late Bird' usually catches the bigger walleyes and enjoys better weather.
The majority of our lakes in the Grand Rapids area opened up this past weekend. All the small lakes were ice free on Sunday. Some floating ice sheets were still visible on Pokegama, Trout, and Deer early Monday morning. Regardless, the open water season is here to stay and we are very excited for it. Our guide calendars are starting to get busy so now is a great time to book your fishing trip with any of our guides if you want your choice of date(s).
This weekend we spent a fair share of time completing chores around the house. Spring is a great time to get a few projects done and score a few bonus points with the wives. Once the MN fishing opener hits, we are busy on the lake and spend quite a bit of time away from home. We are so thankful for our supportive families. We couldn't live this life without you. Thank You.
Sunday, Colt, Dylan, and Brock did find a few hours to run out on Pokegama and wet a line. We found crappies out in 16-25 feet of water right about where we left them at the end of the ice season. They were pretty stubborn, but we picked away and put a couple bends in the JT rods. Look for the crappies to slowly start working their way towards their spawning grounds. Use your electronics to locate them right now. The water temp on Pokegama was 44-46 degrees at the surface. The smelt should start trickling this weekend for those of you looking for a fresh meal of tasty mins.
The Rainy River walleye season closes this coming Friday night (April 14). We will be heading up to the river this Thursday and Friday to put some giant walleyes in the Lund boats. The current is slowing day by day and the water clarity is improving by the hour. The last two days of season should be a hog slam fest. We will see. Stay tuned.
All the talk is focused on soft water as we slowly push into April. The Rainy River is the highlight of the north and the place to be right now. Hog walleyes and huge sturgeon are on all anglers minds. The majority that went up to the Rainy River this weekend came back disappointed. The River began to mud up on Thursday and by Friday, the walleye bite was minimal. The weekend proved to be exceptionally slow for most. Those that anchored and pitched jigs into shallower current seams found a few good walleyes. Those that just drifted down the river didn't have much luck. When the river gets dirty and the current is ripping, you must change your tactics to find a little bit of success.
Why did the River turn to crap after all the good walleye reports last week mid week? Well, the Rainy is a diverse system that changes due to runoff and everything upstream. I know you are all thinking, "Yeah all the snow is gone there shouldn't be any more runoff". The Little and Big Fork Rivers broke loose on Thursday and this caused chocolate milk, ice bergs, and debris to flow straight into the Rainy at Pelland. Then on Friday I believe it was, International Falls opened up the dam to let some water thru and the current flow almost doubled. With debris, muddy water, and more volume came a drop in water temperature and dark debris filled waters. Walleyes have a hard time finding your jig and minnow when they can't see an inch in front of their nose. And paired with cold water and a negative mood, it's tough to get them to open their mouths. They will wait for cleaner and warmer waters (which are on their way before season close on April 14).
We were up at the Rainy this weekend and YES it was slow. Colt, Ben, and Dylan fished 4 Mile Bay on Saturday and found a few really big walleyes. They caught a dozen from morning to mid day and then headed back to the cabin. One of their walleyes tipped the tape at 30 inches. Nice hog boys. They anchored and pitched 1/2 ounce jigs tipped with bright plastics into shallower water along the river channel. Slowly working the jigs back to the boat made a few fish eat.
Topper and company fished sturgeon most of the weekend. The bite was also slow, but consistent. They didn't catch any giants but caught enough to make a few arms sore. Look for the walleye bite and sturgeon bite to pick up once the river clears and the current slows. This coming weekend should be PRIME!
The Rainy River is a popular spring fishing destination for walleye anglers all across the Midwest. The Rainy River which runs west from International Falls, MN to Baudette and dumps into famous Lake of the Woods is one of the main spawning grounds for the walleye. Walleye season here remains open until April 14th. The Rainy River is usually the first open water opportunity for anglers in the northern region of Minnesota and it offers tremendous fishing this time of year.
The Hang Loose Outdoors crew is very familiar with this river system during the month of April. We have fished it for nearly fifteen years. The trophy caliber fish that anglers can catch is remarkable. The numbers of huge walleyes in one day can be breath-taking. We have witnessed these crazy days and also the slow days. Every fisherman knows that fishing has its ups and downs.
Planning the right time to hit the Rainy River is important. If you can take work off during the week and at a spur of the moment, then following the reports can put you in the best position for a crazy day catching giant walleyes on the Rainy. With every river system comes many changing factors. The current, water temp, weather, runoff, river clarity, and time of this short season all play into the bite. Just because the river is clean and consistent doesn't mean the walleyes are ready to begin their spawning run up the river. If the river stays clean, the best time to hit the Rainy River is the last week of the season (April 7 - April 14). Everyday more walleyes pour into this river system.
The Rainy River can be an inconsistent beast and usually changes everyday. When the bite is "ON" it can be over the next day depending on those several influencing factors. It can become dirty in one night and cause anglers to scratch their heads wondering what happened to the bite. If you are following the reports right now, you have seen lots of good fishing reports. If you are paying attention to what is happening up stream then you know that the Little Fork and Big Fork Rivers are rising each day. If this rise happens too fast and those rivers bust, debris and dirty water will flow straight into the Rainy at an alarming pace. If these small rivers hold tight and slowly melt then they won't decrease the clarity of the Rainy as drastic. Either or, you probably get the point. Planning your trip to the Rainy if you only get to go once a spring can influence your success greatly.
We were up on the Rainy River for the past three days and here are the conditions as of yesterday from the Frontier to Birchdale area. The walleye bite was good, not great. We averaged 30 walleyes per boat per day. That might seem awesome, but if you have ever experienced the Rainy at it's best, then you know this is just OK. The majority of the fish we caught were males. The males always push up river before the females. We did catch a couple big females too. The water temp was 38-39 degrees during the afternoon. We like to see the water temps in the low to mid 40s for the big run to take place. The current was moderate (1.1-1.3mph). The clarity was really good.
Fishing current breaks and slowing your drifting speed was key to catching more fish. The water temp is still cold so those fish weren't full on aggressive quite yet. You had to slow your jigging technique to trigger bites. When the fish are aggressive you can usually just drift with the current and smack fish. We put our bow mounts into the current to slow our drifts while keeping our jigs down stream and basically letting them flutter in the current. If you don't have a bow mount, you can do this same tactic with your rear trolling motor, it just takes a little more arm work and concentration. The best bite for us was in the early afternoon when the water warmed up. Three-eighths ounce jigs tipped with a dark paddle tail was our goto. Jigs tipped with rainbow chubs worked too, but it seemed like plastics caught more fish.
We did not target sturgeon, but we seen a few boats around us hooked up. Oh, if you've never caught a sturgeon, then I advise you to try. This is another trophy of the Rainy River and we will be covering it on the next couple weeks coming up. For now, plan your trip up to the Rainy River. The bite should be really good late week into the weekend. Hopefully the Little and Big Fork Rivers hold tight!
Mid March means HOG PIKE and Lake of the Woods. For over ten years now, the Hang Loose Outdoors Crew has spent most of their time, late ice, chasing giant pre-spawn pike on Lake of the Woods. It's like a holiday for us. This time of year, we all get together and stand around waiting for those 'flags' to pop. You can probably hear us from across the lake when that orange array pings and the breeze sways it from side to side. "FLAG", we yell. Then the fun begins as we all run across the slippery ice with hopes of getting their first and not losing the feet below you. The anticipation, the fun, food, laughs, high fives, and friendship bring us together every March.
It's kind of a science as all fishing goes. The right spots this time of year will provide more action. Our Crew has dialed in some of these spots over the last decade and we just love to share them with others at times. We have all caught a couple super giants in our days. It's so awesome to share the good March times with friends we meet along the way to capture their personal best pike and share stories and high fives.
That is exactly what we did this past weekend.
We have become friends with a lot of people throughout the numerous years of tip up fishing on Lake of the Woods. Some we have ran into while on the lake and others we have shared spots and days running after flags. Two of those friends we love to spend time with chasing hog pike are Andrew Kraft and Stephen Slick. These guys are a blast to fish with. When you plan a weekend pike fishing with them, you better bring an empty stomach because they bring the food and lots of it. When you are waiting for that flag to ping, they are manning the grill. The grill is always hot and the burgers and brats roll off as fast as the pike run with your baits. A lot of times things get a little charred. Well, that's a good thing. It just means the grill was unattended while fighting a giant pike. Action gets intense when the pike eat and a lot of the times you have to wait your turn. Pike come first then your gut comes second. Once its time to catch your breath, Kraft is usually putting another round of burgers on the grill. You have to keep the calories in because you usually are burning them soon after while you slip and slide across the ice. The forearms get a workout when you are hooked up with a twenty pound pike. Its no easy fight, but its rewarding when you have a bunch of pictures to look through at the end of the day.
Saturday and Sunday, the HLO boys along with Kraft and Slick met up with the Fish Addictions TV crew to share some laughs, slips, trips, food, and of course hog pike. There wasn't a ton of time on Saturday for us to eat because the pike were chowing. Tip up to tip up to tip up we ran. There were a bunch of slips, a ton of laughs, and a whole bunch of high fives. This is the second time this winter we have enjoyed a weekend on the ice with the Fish Addictions Crew. We have had a blast with them on both outings. They are a bunch of guys just like us who love to fish and have fun. Fishing with friends is what its all about. Keep on introducing those kids to our great sport. There's nothing like getting everyone together and catching and releasing some hog pike.
We can't wait for you all to watch the show this Sunday on Fox Sports North at 10:30AM. Set those DVRs or gather around the TV on Sunday because this is one show you don't wanna miss!
Freshly back from our Clearwater West, Ontario winter camping trip; we took the weekend off to dry out frozen gear, organize, watch the 2017 High School Hockey Playoffs, and also catch our Backwoods Crappie Show with Fish Addictions TV Sunday on Fox Sports North. It was a busy weekend, but also a great weekend spent with family. It's crazy what a hardcore trip will do to your body. A relaxing weekend was definitely in store for us.
The 2017 High School Hockey State Playoffs was nothing short of exciting. Our Grand Rapids Thunderhawks beat Duluth East for the Section Title earning them a spot in the state playoffs. Going into the tournament as a 5th seed, they had a tough road ahead of them. Thursday the Thunderhawks beat 4th seeded Maple Grove to advance to their semifinal matchup with #1 Eden Prairie. Eden Prairie knocked Grand Rapids out of the tournament last year. Friday, the Thunderhawks played their hearts out and beat Eden Prairie 3-2. Tensions around Grand Rapids rose and community support flourished. I believe 75 percent of the town headed down to the cities to watch the championship game against Moorhead. We got together with family and friends to watch the game. I was shaking like a leaf while watching the game on TV. Most of us HLO boys graduated from Grand Rapids so our pull was huge and our excitement was overwhelming. The Grand Rapids Thunderhawks took it to the Moorhead Spuds and won 6-4. Congrats to the 2017 High School Hockey State Champions Grand Rapids Thunderhawks. We are so proud of you boys, the coaches, and our awesome community. Hockey is king again in our town!
Sunday, we gathered with family and friends over at the Maki household and watched ourselves on Fox Sports North. Over the last couple years, we have had the privilege of getting to know the Fish Addictions Crew. They are a group of guys just like us. They love fishing, love having fun, and are just an all around great bunch of guys. Earlier this winter, we made a plan to get together and share some laughs, hooksets, and an adventure. During February we made it happen. The weather was unseasonably nice when we got together with the Fish Addictions Crew. As all of you know, we love to chase crappies off the beaten path. That is exactly what we did that weekend. We had an awesome day on the ice with them and we can't wait to do it again. Thank you Mike, Brian, and Aaron. What a fun day. Please follow the link to watch the video: "The Backwoods" - Season 2 Episode 10 FA TV.
We are off to Lake of the Woods to chase hog gators this coming weekend.... Stay tuned
With winter slowly drawing to a close and March upon us it was now the start of a very busy and exciting month. March offers some of the best opportunities for ice fishing. Whether, it is setting flags for giant pike on LOTW or chasing lake trout in the heart of Ontario. Here at HLO, March is a month that we all look forward to and wish lasted more than 4 weeks.
Well it was not almost time for our annual Winter camping trip up on Clearwater West Lake in Central Ontario. Colt, Topper, Dylan, and I were set to head off to Laker Land Friday morning as soon as I arrived to Grand Rapids. The anticipation of this trip causes many sleepless nights and hours of preparation to make sure everything is exactly how we want it. Lucky for me, I was on a week of overnights transitioning my Scheels fishing shop from Ice mode to open water. As I dug out new products for the year, I found myself searching for new baits that may be the next best thing for lake trout just to take away some of the anxiety I had to deal with all week. Our group texts seemed to roll all night and day, of things we need, what are we eating and how much cheese is in it, and can we leave yet!! Weather was watched closely by all of us and we couldn’t help but notice that for the second straight year it was calling for thunderstorms on Monday. No way...not going to happen...it doesn’t t-storm in March...right?
Friday morning came pretty fast and I gathered a few last things as I left work at 7 AM with my truck pointed east to Grand Rapids to meet the boys. At this point sleep was the last thing on my mind as I knew I would be running close to 36 hours straight without sleep. (Who needs energy drinks when you got Lakers on the brain?) We met up at Maki’s Body Shop and loaded the last few things into D’s brand new heavy Chevy diesel and 25’ enclosed trailer. I guess you gotta break in a truck somehow and what better way than the rough roads of Ontario. (Sorry about all the chip crumbs and pizza grease D, Colt said he would vacuum it out when we got back.) After gathering a few last ends around town we got on the road about noon and started the 4 plus hour trip to Brown’s resort.
Now, being on a tight schedule we hoped we could get up there and get camp set up before night fall. We crossed our fingers for an easy and quick border crossing which we thankfully received and we were now in the home stretch. We heard rumors of a shortcut that cut off close to an hour on the trek so we decided we would try and give that a go as time was not in our favor. I will remind you that Topper’s navigation tried to take us on this so called shortcut last year and it lead us down one of the sketchiest roads we had all been on (probably a snowmobile trail). So to say we were a bit skeptical on Topper’s navigation this year was a bit of an understatement. Surprisingly his navigation turned out to be correct this year which we drastically needed if we were going to get camp set up in daylight hours.
Arriving at Brown’s around 4 we scrambled to get four days’ worth of gear and essentials jammed into 2 otter sleds and our Excel Outdoors Cargo Trunks. A few ratchet straps and bungee cords were needed to help secure the overflowing load down and we were off.
Our campsite was located about 7 miles on the opposite side of the lake then where we landed. With minimal snow cover on the lake we found ourselves frequently dragging our feet off the sled to spray snow onto the hyfax to keep them from burning up. Hopefully this wasn’t going to be a common theme the rest of the week.
Arriving at our campsite it was now time to get the essentials done. Get firewood for the wood stove and get the tent set up. Colt and Topper immediately off loaded the gear sled, grabbed the saw, and headed out to gather enough wood for a few nights of camping. Dylan and I attacked the tent set up process which had been about a year to date sense we did it last. Well a few head scratches and a pile of spare parts we had the tent set up and banked just as Colt and Topper were heading back with a sled full of wood. Tents up, woods gathered.....exhale...we did it. After a few drinks and our first of many cheesy hotdish dinners we made a game plan for the next day. We decided we would head in to White Otter Lake right away in the morning and work our way back hitting spots that we have had good success on in years past.
The fish activity seemed to be a bit slow that morning with not much showing up on the flashers. Although the ones that would come in would fly up and smash your baits without hesitation. Every other spot we hit we seemed to pick up a fish or two. The evening bite started to show promise as we had moved back on to Clearwater West Lake. The lake came alive with bait clouds of smelt moving through and Dylan landing a few nice lake trout. Colt and I both marked a handful of fish together with myself missing hooksets and losing my opportunity at landing a fish.
With our hopes high and nicer weather on the way the following day we got settled into camp and enjoyed a few drinks and a hot meal. I think the menu was Chicken Tortellini Soup (Thanks Lindsey!!) that night with a side of all dressed chips. We quickly realized we did not pack bowls so each of us fashioned our own unique bowl. Topper used his tinfoil hat as a bowl, Colt used a coffee cup, Dylan also a tinfoil creation, and I went for a mostly empty bag of All Dressed chips. The crackling of the wood stove and a warm sleeping bag seemed to put us all to sleep after the meal. Some quicker than others… I seemed to be asleep and apparently snoring before the lantern was shut off each night. I had my doubt on the snoring part until video proof showed me wrong the next day. Sorry boys!
Sunday morning we again headed off to White Otter to a different portion of the lake we got chased off of last year by a thunder storm. (t-storms...in march...can’t happen twice) A few fish were seen on our first spot and a few were landed on our second spot. The day had signs of being good. Slowly the wind crept up on us and fishing seemed to slow down. Before long the wind was pretty strong and we had a gut feeling that we may need to go take a look at the tent and make sure it wasn’t halfway to Winnipeg. Plus with good signs of an evening bit on Clearwater the night before it seemed to be the best decision. With our tent still in one piece we through a few extra stakes into the ground and headed out for the evening bite. Topper headed out by himself to a spot we haven’t hit yet and D, Colt, and myself heading back to where we ended the night before. It did not take long before we were hooked up on some fish.
I tied into a nice scrappy fish, got it landed and released, and as I dropped my lure back down another one was waiting and caught my bait on the fall. Two quick fish in a couple minutes got my blood pumping!! I don’t think any of us will get over the drag screaming runs that these fish take. They leave you wondering if they will ever stop before they have you spooled. I believe we landed 4 fish that evening between the three of us and were curious to see how Topper did. We met back at camp to find out that Topper had put on a Laker beat down. Topps landed 4 fish between the 6-10 pound range in just a couple hours. Our spirits were now high for the next day of fishing.
Monday morning we awoke to a completely bare lake. The warm weather we had the day before completely melted the little snow cover we had left. Lucky for us there was still some standing water on the ice to keep the sleds cool, but we were slipping and sliding around everywhere. After a slow morning we went in search of some new grounds. The cool thing with the standing water is you could now drag your flasher transducer across the ice and graph without even drilling a hole. It felt like we were back in the Lund Boats for a second. Topper and myself finally set up on a long shelf that was adjacent to some very deep water and on the other side a shallow feeding flat. It was here that Topper got hooks into a fish that quickly came unbuttoned. As he reeled up to check his bait out he got eyes on a 20lb + giant that just would not commit to the bait and slowly fell back into the abyss. Topps came running out of his house screaming and ‘babbling’ and got us all fired up. Shortly after the sighting I got hooked up with my personal best laker, a healthy 10lber I would guess.
It was now pushing about noon on Monday and we started to get some light rain. We all decided to head back to camp dry out and get a hot meal and a quick snooze. We all seemed a little sleep deprived as we were fishing sun up to sun down for 3 days straight. We awoke to a visitor yelling in our tent that kinda had us all confused as we were deep in sleep. The local game warden had swung in and chatted with us and assured us that after this little rain we were getting it was going to be nice the rest of the week. (hmmmmm.....)
Well the light rain turned into a heavy rain for about 2 hours. We were able to get out for a couple hours that evening and we were now driving through a half of foot of water on top of the ice. The hole we had drilled that morning had turned into a whirlpool and expanded about 4 inches in diameter. We all got the feeling that something bad was about to hit us. (t-storms.....in March.......two years in a row.......no way!) We had marked a few fish that evening with everyone slamming on the breaks right before hitting our bait and slowly sliding away. We all knew this was a bad sign, the big weather change is going to have these lakers on lock jaw for a couple days.
Meeting back at camp that evening we had made the decision that we were going to pack up in the morning and fish our way out if weather lets us. As we were eating our dinner late that night and standing in a fresh 6 inches of water that had found its way into our tent, we saw it. The bright flash outside the tent, and we all looked at each other and just shook our head. For the second straight year, almost year to date, we were experiencing a Thunder Storm in March. The winds came whipping in at a strong 30 MPH and the flood gates unleashed. The rain turned to hail in the middle of the night and the inside of the tent was ear-piercing as it was beating against the side of it. We all woke up and just wondered if this poor tent would hold up or if it was going to be ripped off and leave us in the wide open. Thankfully it held all night, but the wind NEVER let up. Brutal wind gusts came ripping straight down the lake and blasted into our campsite over and over. The rain had now turned to snow and all of us were a little scared to look outside.
We poked our heads out of the tent after a quick breakfast to an absolute nightmare. It was a complete white out with visibility of about 20 ft. Our luxurious portable house bathroom for the week had been yard sailed by the wind into a few trees. Anything left outside that night was now frozen and packed with snow. Needless to say picking up camp was quite the task. The tent was a frozen ball along with just about all our other gear. We got it all crammed into the sleds and ratchet strapped down. We had one sled with a choke stuck on half so now we had to rig up an otter train behind the bearcat as the broken sled would not be able to pull anything.
The lake greeted us with a thin frozen layer of ice over the standing water which we had to bust through for some 7 miles back to the truck. There were times we had water pouring over the floorboards of the bearcat and visibility across the lake was about 15 ft. This is why it is a must to carry a GPS or we would have been stuck on that lake for a long time. There was no telling where we were without a GPS and the resort as a waypoint.
Making it back to the truck our gear and sleds were all one giant ice block. We quickly got the trailer loaded up before our sleds locked up like an ice cube and we got the truck pointed home as quickly as we could. The white out conditions on the lake turned into whiteout conditions on the road. The wind was blowing the big 25’ enclosed trailer all over the road and I don’t think we hit over 40 MPH once we got across the border. We decided to make a pit stop at the Maki Cabin for the evening and wait out the storm. A nice warm fire and bed sounded great to us all.
Wednesday morning it was straight to Maki’s parents big heated garage to thaw this ice cube out. We got all the sleds stuffed in there and the tent set up. What a GIANT MESS! Big thanks goes out to Brian and Kelly for letting us take over the garage with an absolute destruction of water and gear. Not sure what we would have done without that big garage. As I type this on Wednesday, the gear is still all piled in there and thawing out. A trip like this takes days or preparation and if the weather turns bad it takes days of unpacking and drying things out properly.
Anyone looking to get into a few lake trout give Brown’s Clearwater West resort a look. Barry and Carrol Brown are outstanding people and will get you taken care of. We look forward to the trip every year and are already planning out our next year’s adventure.
Written by Ben Olson- Scheels Fishing Manager, HLO ProStaff
Fresh off of a giant warm front that swept through most of the midwest and northern region we had to scramble to find a couple wheelers to replace a few of the snowmobiles we planned on taking. With reports of minimal snow cover on the lake now we knew wheelers would be the best option. We still had to take a couple snowmobiles so we made some homemade scratchers for the skies to keep the sleds from overheating and the hyfax from melting. A simple track stud works wonders if you ever find yourself in a pinch.
I have always heard stories of the treacherous terrain Big Windy has to offer but never fully understood until we got there. The first mile out from shore on the lake looked like a different planet. The ice had broken apart this fall when a big wind hit and refroze a complete mess. I don’t think we hit over 10 MPH all weekend when traveling the lake. (My back still hurts as I type this.)
Now that were out there, it was time to start fishing, but where do you start on such a massive body of water? Throw a dart at the map and go there? Not a bad choice at times, but we used a couple simple strategies to help us land more fish. The first one is find CLEAN water. If you get too close to the Red River or any feeder creek the water is straight sludge. The first spot we drilled on we stuck the ice scoop down and lost it within 4 inches under the water. NOT GOOD. We suspected with the warm weather the runoff had the Red River flowing pretty good. After a few more miles and couple more moves we found clearer water and began to fish. If you’re not catching fish within 15 minutes pack up and move!
The second fishing spot of the day we seemed to land on a good batch of fish. After tossing one small fish back I found myself battling with what seemed to be one of the famous “Greenbacks” everyone talks about. As I get to my swivel on my leader water starts gushing out of my hole and up came a walleye head that took up every inch of a 8” hole. BOOM my first Manitoba Master Angler! A healthy 28” Greenback that pushed 10lbs.
The rest of the day was spent bouncing around and catching eater fish at will. I couldn’t believe how aggressive these eater walleyes were. A large Live Target rattle bait seemed like a bite size snack for them. They would come in on the flasher, chase you around like a Lake Trout, and absolutely smash your bait. Talk about insane!!
Our last move of the day brought us back to where I landed the 28” Greenie earlier in the day. This time again within minutes, I had a giant mark show up on the graph and hit me like a train. After a good battle I again pulled up a healthy 28” Manitoba Master Angler GreenBack. The color on these fish is truly unreal!!
The second day provided action from the 16-18 inch walleyes. The third and final day of our trip was spent on a different portion of the lake. We caught small fish over and over that day with nothing to show for the big girls again. The action still made those days’ worth it.
For anyone who has not yet been up to Lake Winnipeg I would highly suggest you do so. I will tell you that you need to pack smart and pack light. Be prepared to break something because I can about guarantee that you will!! If you are not properly prepared the lake will chew you up and spit you out with your gear in a million pieces. One thing is you will have a blast and knowing those big girls can attack at any second keeps your eye on the line.
Written by Ben Olson- HLO Prostaff & Scheels Fishing Manager
A Wrap On The Predator Ice Season
I was fortunate enough to make my way down to Mille Lacs early ice with some good friends to get in on the fantastic walleye bite. We iced multiple 25 plus inch walleyes, along with dozens of smaller fish. Back in my stomping grounds, the Detroit Lakes area, the walleye bite was pretty consistent with years past; A handful of walleyes during the prime low light periods of dawn and dusk. One interesting tactic I used this year was jigging two active rods at the same time, as opposed to a jigging rod and a deadstick rod. Walleyes in the DL area this season simply did not want a deadstick presentation. My setup for double fisting walleyes this year involved an aggressive bait on one rod and a more subtle presentation on the other. My go-to aggressive bait was a Rapala Slab-Rap #4 size in “Red Clown”. For my subtle presentation I used either a VMC Tingler spoon tipped with a minnow head or a Northland Tackle Forage Minnow Dart jig tipped with a whole minnow. If your jigging presentations are far outfishing the deadstick presentations, don’t be afraid to jig two rods at the same time.... Just be ready to set the hook and drop your other rod.
With the walleye season ending, we now focus our attention to late ice panfish, burbot, and LOTW pike here in Minnesota. Look for panfish to begin to transition from basin areas up to green weed beds and the mouths of bays as they begin to prepare for spawn. For big crappies late ice, you may be surprised how shallow they will go. Emergent reed beds in 4-6 feet of water will hold numbers of fish at times, as well as massive shallow weed beds, as long as the weeds are green and healthy. Unlike hole-hopping for basin crappies, if you don’t mark a fish in these shallow holes right away, it is still a good idea to fish each hole for a few minutes. These fish are constantly roaming these weed beds, and the noise of the auger could have temporarily spooked them from the hole you are in.
We hope you had a safe and successful February on the ice, and we are very excited for what March has to offer.
written by Forrest Leitch- HLO Prostaff
Hang Loose Outdoors began a little over 15 years ago as a group of friends who share a similar passion; the outdoors, fishing and hunting to be exact. Today, most of us have families and all hold full time jobs. During the summer months we work our full time jobs as well as an open water fishing guide service. Things get extremely busy starting in the spring. Throw in a few tournaments and all of a sudden summer is gone and fall is here. Hunting season comes and goes and finally the winter arrives. Usually we take a breath of cold air during the winter months and regroup.
What started out as a group of friends sharing laughs and good times together has now became our business. Our mission is to have fun and that's one thing we still operate by. We make it a statement to show our clients a fun time on the water. We might not hang out as that crazy group of friends as much anymore, but we pass on the excitement and passion like we did 15 years ago.
We still plan trips together on a regular basis especially during the winter months when our schedules aren't jam packed with events. Lake trout trips to Canada are usually our favorite. Another one is chasing panfish in the middle of the Northwoods. Every trip with the guys is very special because they just don't happen as frequent as they once did. Life gets busy! HLO crew trips are nothing short of exciting. When you combine the characters of all of us, there is a ton of laughter, smiles, high fives, and the usual yard sale of equipment that is talked about until another one replaces it with a better blooper. This crew is fun and nothing goes unsaid.
This weekend we had a few visitors hanging loose and chasing crappies in the backwoods with us. Their might have been a camera along to witness some catches and high fives (stay tuned for more info about this). It's always a pleasure to make new friends in the fishing world. We love sharing the outdoors with others and when you can catch a bunch of fish and share similar stories, that is what the outdoors is all about. It's about friendship, having fun, and laughing. Doing that all alone in the middle of nowhere on top of the ice is what we are all about. This weekend was another great trip and the weather made it even better. My guts hurt a little on Sunday and I believe that was from laughing.
Thank you to everyone who made this weekend awesome!
Last week I talked about getting away from the crowds and targeting panfish on small lakes back in the woods. That is exactly what Colt and I did this past weekend. We actually visited a number of lakes that were on the top of my good list last year.
One of my goto lakes back in the bush for 9-11 crappies was still on fire. There was one guy spearing on this lake but other than that, there was very little sign of anyone crappie fishing it this year. It took us a number of holes to find the motherload of crappies, but once we did, it was one after the other. There was no need for live bait once we found them. A Northland Impulse mayfly threaded on a tungsten jig was lights out. All fish were released. Colt and I decided to keep on keeping on so off to Lake 2 we went.
Lake Two was track free. Well, I shouldn't say it that way. A few deer tracks made their way across the lake and a couple lonely coyotes worked the shoreline. No snowmobile tracks or human tracks were visible. We had the lake to ourselves. This lake simply amazes me because yes it's way back in the woods, but yet so close to the road. You can literally park your truck and walk onto the lake and fish. Yet, no one does. Why? Well, if there are no tracks out there it must mean there are no fish?
We found fish almost instantly on Lake Two and I pulled up about a 10 inch crappie. A few holes later, Colt connected with a couple 9s and one pushing 11. There weren't a ton of fish and their mood wasn't as action packed as the fish on Lake One. We sampled 10 fish and then decided to move on to Lake 3 of the day.
Lake Three has been my goto back lake for big crappies for four years now. I only fish it once or twice a year. The trail leading into the corner of the lake is practically a deer trail. It's the only public way into the lake. Well, Colt and I had to clear some brush to access the deer trail via Bearcat but we got her done. Once on the lake, we found ourselves as second comers. This was a surprise to us. People on the other side of the lake were up at their cabin and they were fishing. They weren't where we wanted to fish so I felt better about the whole deal. Since I still am physically incapable of drilling holes, Colt went to town swiss cheesing the deep hole with the Eskimo. I followed behind with the flasher.
Hole after hole turned up blank. Colt drilled holes faster than I could check them. I believe he started getting upset with fishless waters and it motivated him to find the slabs that we just couldn't find. Well, to make a story short, we never found our crappies that were so predictable on this lake. The locals came over and visited with us and said the fishing had been really slow all year long. We didn't ask how much they had fished it this year, but judging by the tracks on the lake, not a whole lot. There were only a couple holes in the deep hole where we normally caught them. Colt added another 50 holes. The locals were set up adjacent to the deep hole up on the flat. If we weren't finding them and they weren't then where did they go? Oh the mystery of fishing is what drives us to find more of these lakes. Lake Three, we might be back on your ice this year or for sure next year. Your waters produce slabs, just not this day.
Let downs happen in life so Colt and I regrouped on Sunday afternoon and hit a couple more lakes. It wasn't until the evening hours that something happened. It wasn't fast and furious, but Colt and I put a couple nice crappies on the ice. I will take quality over quantity any day. The JT crappie snare rod tipped with a minnow and set in the rod holder produced some quality fish on this particular evening. Wow! do I love this setup. You can jig in one hole and have a snare rod set up 15 yards away. Covering water is key and this allows you do to just that. Colt hooked into the nicest crappie of the weekend right as the sun hit the trees. This 13 plus inch slab was a beautiful specimen and even posed for the camera before it was released. It was a good ending to the weekend.
We are at it again this weekend as Benny (Ben Olson) and 'Company' come to enjoy the beautiful weather. It's going to be an awesome upcoming weekend. Can't wait for it. I hope we find some slabs for you boys. Either way, it's going to be a fun adventure in the back woods.
written by Brock
A fair amount of ice anglers, especially around the Grand Rapids area, us included, view February as one of the toughest months of fishing. Yes, this can be very true. The walleye bite slows down. Ice thickness and the long winter decreases fish metabolism. Snow depths make it hard to reach some of those good spots with permanent houses. Fishing pressure has burned out multiple areas or even some lakes totally. Fish start to be finicky on a more routine basis. Some anglers keep chasing that early ice bite and don't adapt to the migration of the fish.
We've seen all these scenarios. We've came home empty handed and confused on many fishing outings during this month. Ice and weather conditions have beat us up and destroyed our gear more times than we can remember. Ice fishing is tough this time of year, but we have learned to adapt and chase success rather than failure.
Number one, this time of year it's important to fish the species that provide action. Lake trout, crappies, and big northern pike are our target species during the month of February. You will see us take multiple trips across the border this month in search of powerful lake trout. Lake trout turn on this month and there is no other fish under the ice that gets us more pumped up to fish. The power, the aggressiveness, and the chase is hands down incomparable to any other species around this area. Yes, you can target lakers and other trout species around the Grand Rapids area too. We do that, but we find bigger and better action north of the border.
As for action around the Grand Rapids area this time of year, our main focus is concentrated on those small hard to get to bodies of water for panfish and northern pike. Getting away from the pressure is key this time of year. Fish that haven't been fished will bite better than those that have seen every array of jig and minnow or wax worm combination. Small bog stained lakes in the middle of the north woods are excellent choices during the month of February.
The adventure of getting to these lakes on snowmobiles is half the excitement. A ride down the snowmobile trails, the logging roads, and in some circumstances; walking right through the woods with the auger over your shoulder and your rod bag slung over your back is truly an experience. There are a ton of lakes in Northern Minnesota that rarely or can't be accessed during the summer months. Swamps surround them and they are just too wet to get into during the open water periods. The ground is frozen now and a little leg work can turn up some dandy fish during this tough month of fishing.
How do we know what lakes to fish in the middle of the woods? Well, that is the tricky part. This is where the work comes in. You won't find out what lies under the ice unless you get out there and find out for yourself. Small back lakes are held a secret deep in most people's hearts. You won't hear Jim and John sharing their secret lake on facebook. You probably won't find small lakes written up in the Outdoor News. And you definitely won't hear us naming off lakes that lie back in the bush. First, grab a map and start looking at lakes that lie back in the woods that look like they might have potential to hold panfish. Put an X on these lakes. Maybe research them on the DNR Lake Finder (some lakes have a fisheries survey report). (Trust that lake finder for some lakes, but take it with a grain of salt because some of the best lakes we have don't even say they hold crappies.) Once you have a handful of potential lakes that interest you, now find a way into them. Grab the plat book and get on Google Earth. Look for a public route into the lake or one that gets you close. Now, go fish them. Like I mentioned, the adventure is half the fun. Bring the kids. Kids love snowmobile rides and getting out into the woods too.
If you catch fish, make a note on your map or a mental note on the size of the fish. Fish grow. A mess of 10 inch crappies will probably mean a mess of 12 inch crappies next year. Year after year, try to add a couple more lakes to your secret list. When February hits next year, you will know where to go to get away from the crowds and find an active bite.
Remember to keep these lakes a secret. If you find one that is dynamite, don't bring all your friends out there to catch a limit every weekend. These small lakes are good because fishing pressure is low. Also remember to release those big old panfish. Keep the small ones to eat if you want a meal and let the big ones lay eggs so your secret lake is good for many years to come.
Throw out some tip ups with big sucker minnows when you are back on these small lakes because small lakes hold big toothy creatures too!
Get away from the crowds and find your own fishing success during the month of February. Focus on small lakes in the middle of our beautiful north woods. This tactic is fun for the whole family and will provide you with fishing action during a month where most are still looking for fish on those larger lakes where the bite has died.
written by Brock
Colt and Dylan visited the Bemidji area this weekend. They met up with good friends Andrew Kraft, Ethan Karppinen, and Forrest Leitch. Their mission was to enjoy the good times while chasing a few slab panfish around. Here is how Krafty Fishing explains the weekend:
We rolled out of bed well before the sun came up Saturday morning to stretch the line on some big crappies in the Bemidji area. After experiencing a pretty solid bite throughout the past few weeks, our expectations were high...
After getting on our targeted body of water, we punched a grid of holes and dropped down the flashers. It was apparent that there was a familiar theme... there were only a few fish appearing at a time, but they were the right ones as these larger crappies were roaming the basin in small schools.
We hooked into a few slabs right away, but the bite faded as the day progressed. Fish continued to pass by, but their activity greatly diminished as they would sit on baits for five minutes or better without ever committing. We threw everything at them but the kitchen sink, punched a lot of holes, and covered a lot of water, but we just couldn't get them to go. We ended up getting back home that evening with more questions than answers.
Sunday morning we decided to switch gears and get after some gills on a backwoods lake, away from the crowds. The five of us fanned out and scanned a break that transitioned from a weed line to the main lake basin. We set the hook into gill after gill for the first hour or so before that bite began to fade as well. We enjoyed the window we were provided with and made the most of it.
This evening we tried a new body of water, located a little school of smaller crappies, but moved on to try a more productive area of the lake. After a dozen decent perch and several walleyes later, we called a close to the weekend.
It's always a productive weekend when you can share it with good friends chasing that next bite and sharing a few laughs!
written by Andrew Kraft (Krafty Fishing).
How often have you experienced an awesome bite one day and then the next day fishing is slow as molasses? The spots that gave up fish the previous day seem to be vacant. Or your electronics are lite up, but the fish just don't seem to be hungry. This happens a lot and even to the best anglers out there. Yes, we see this all the time. Have you thought about it? Have you blamed it on the weather or possibly the fishing pressure? If you are an angler who studies the hard times like we do then you might want to listen up. The tough bites are the ones you learn from. Some days the fish just jump in the boat. You really don't learn from those good outings.
This past weekend, Colt and I, spent a significant amount of time chasing panfish on a few lakes around the area. The bite was very slow and we bounced hole to hole with similar results. We would find fish, fish them and they would just sit on our flashers and wouldn't bite. We would change jigs, switch from a minnow to a waxie to a plastic and the panfish still would barely pay attention to our offerings. We fished many holes, seen a lot of fish on our electronics, and only caught a handful each lake we visited. The fish appeared very lethargic on every lake. They hung close to bottom and moved around in the water column ever so slowly. They wouldn't chase. If one decided to bite, the bite was extremely quick and light. It was a nip and a spit all at once. You had to have a spring bobber to see the bite and had to set the hook instantly. The nitinol spring bobbers on our JT Panhandler rods gave us a huge advantage in catching the fish that we did. Yes, we missed a lot too. Why were the fish so negative? Colt brought up the talk of barometer and we had a real good discussion. That day the barometer was very low, 29.4in.
If you paid attention to the weather this weekend you noticed that the warm weather that moved through pushed the high pressure out and a huge low pressure system moved in. With this pressure change came a change in the barometer. The barometer is always something that has confused me in relation to fishing and fish activity. The more research I did, the more it puzzled me. I usually go fishing no matter what the weather or what the barometer reads. Why? We all love fishing and a day on the water is much more enjoyable than work. But understanding how the barometer influences fish activity can turn a slow day into a good day.
We all would rather go home with a meal of fish than just a couple. Your decisions on the ice or in the boat can make a difference between say catching two fish or ten. Ten is a much better then two. So how do we turn a slow day into a good day?
Fishing tournaments and guiding has taught me a ton about fishing over the years. You see the same guys year after year in the top 10 at tournaments. Yeah, sometimes these phenomenal sticks have a bad day, but they wipe the bad day away and follow the next tournament up with a solid finish. I have a strong feeling these guys do it because they know when to grind out a spot or know when to run and gun.
Grinding or running and gunning is the single most important decision when on the water. We always stress being mobile on the ice this time of year. Keep drilling holes till you find active fish. Keep moving spots in your boat till you land on fish that are eating. What if you don’t find that motherload of active fish? Did you just waste a whole day running from spot to spot? When should a person just sit in one spot and fish? Is grinding out a spot the right move? We have seen the grinders at tournaments usually always out fish the guys that run and gun especially during a tough bite.
What does the weather and barometer have to do with this? Well, knowing when fish are active or negative should influence your decision to grind or keep moving. Understanding what the weather does to fish can help you make your decision. Does it always work? No, that’s why it’s called fishing and not catching.
There is no definite answer to what the barometer does to fish, but there are a few well known fisheries biologists who have documented patterns. When the barometric pressure decreases the amount of pressure in the water decreases. This decrease in pressure in the water means less pressure pushing against the bladders of the fish. Fish bladders expand a little with less pressure in the water. When their bladders expand, fish become less comfortable. Fish normally relieve this discomfort by moving lower in the water column or by absorbing extra gas in their bladders. When fish do this, I would classify their mood as neutral or inactive. How often have you located fish buried to the bottom on your electronics? Eating is on the bottom of their list and your jig and minnow in front of their face is just not appealing. They don’t care to even pay attention to your presentation.
Fish are much more comfortable when there’s stable high barometric pressure. When you locate fish during this period, they are much more prone to eat. They are either neutral and a few in the school like your jig and minnow or they are active and they are hitting every presentation you throw at them.
What about a changing barometric pressure or a storm on the horizon? How does that affect the mood of fish? Well, there are many factors at work here. For example, let’s say the pressure is stable and high. The fishing is good. Then a cold front heads your way and with it comes low pressure. Fish can sense this pressure change and their mood will change as they sense the pressure changing. They will usually feed heavily before the pressure drops. I have experienced some of my most memorable fishing days during this pressure change.
How about the opposite change? For example, the pressure has been low for a couple of days and the fishing is slow. The pressure begins to slowly rise. What do the fish do? Well in this situation, fishing usually starts to improve but slowly. It may take 24 hours for you to see a huge difference in the activity of fish. Once the pressure has stabilized for a couple days, you will notice the fish are active and biting again.
This evidence is not concrete and many factors influence it such as the size of the body of water you are fishing, the time of year, and the species you are pursuing. But knowing a little about the barometric pressure can help you make better decisions on the water. Should you run and gun or hole hop during low barometric pressure or should you grind out a spot if you know fish are there?
We are always chasing the best bite and the biggest fish. Running and gunning always seems to be the best answer. Next time you are on the ice or in your boat, study the barometric pressure and think, “What mood are the fish in right now”?
If you are interested in a more in depth read please check out this article Fishing by the Barometer by Gary Poveromo.
written by Brock
The nasty cold has finally let up here in Northern Minnesota. The weather was beautiful this weekend and looks to be even better this week and into next weekend. Anglers can finally leave the fish houses at home and fish out on the ice. This time of year, being mobile is key to catching fish, and when the weather is nice, this tactic can be utilized. Warm temperatures also allow us to bring the kids out ice fishing. Remember to bring the kids out this week or introduce someone to this fun sport.
Mille Lacs has been in the fishing report all winter long. Sunday's weather seemed legit for a day trip to the big pond. We wanted to tangle with all the action everyone was talking about since early ice. Colt, Dylan, Scott, and Austin made the trip south early Sunday morning.
Travel was easy on snowmobiles and ice conditions were great all across the lake. The four hit multiple spots throughout the morning hours with limited luck. They caught walleyes, but overall the action was on the slower side. They would catch a couple fish per spot and then nothing. They kept moving to find active fish and a better bite, but no spot really proved itself better than the next. Knowing being mobile will put more fish on the ice, they kept bouncing spots and picking off a walleye here and another there. Before sunset, they found themselves tem miles from where they had begun the morning. The evening bite was a little better, but still it wasn't as good as the reports had been. Throughout the whole day, they iced twenty plus walleyes for the four of them including a healthy 26.5 inch.
Did the beautiful weather change the bite? Sometimes a significant change in temperature or barometer can make those walleyes neutral or negative. Once the weather stabilizes for two or three days, the bite will improve. We are pretty sure this is what happened. Look for the bite to pick back up on Wednesday and be solid throughout the weekend. Regardless, the boys had a blast fishing Mille Lacs. There's so much structure and so many places to fish. Look for areas that have low pressure and get out and cover some water.
Monday, Colt, Brock, and Tony hit a small back lake over by Remer. The weather was amazing and it took no time locating crappies on the flashers. We drilled roughly twenty holes and crappies seemed to exist in every hole. The trick was making them bite. The fish were super finicky and it took some coaxing to make them eat. We kept on asking ourselves if they would turn on towards evening or sunset so we stayed until the sun was well below the trees. Those crappies never changed their mood.
We caught-n-released about thirty crappies including a handful of good ones (10-12 inchers). The trick was all in the built in nitinol spring bobbers on our JT custom panhandler rods. The fish were so finicky they would barely suck in our small jigs tipped with a wax worm. Once you seen your spring bobber barely move you would set the hook. Catching these fish without these setups would have been nearly impossible. It goes to show you why we have switched all of our rods out to the JT custom rod lineup. Having the right gear will make or break a day. All crappies were released.
Off to enjoy the weather I go. It is beautiful out my window so we all better get outside and enjoy it! Good luck fishing!
We hope you all are enjoying this cold Northern Minnesota weather. It's been chilly here with no let off. If it does warm a touch, it seems to spit snow and blow like crazy. Most fishermen have been confined to a ice shelter as of late. There looks to finally be a warm up moving in after next weekend. Lets hope! It would sure be nice to melt the roads and be able to be mobile on the ice.
We stress mobility always while chasing walleyes and panfish all winter long. Those that stay on the fish, move with the fish. Finding active fish leads to success. This past weekend was tough to be mobile with the weather at hand, but we did our best. Dylan and Colt fished Upper Red Lake on Saturday. Being mobile put more fish on the ice, but overall, the bite was on the slower side for them.
We have heard mixed reports coming from Upper Red as of late. The majority are reporting a fair bite with a few reports being good. The night bite has been better than the day bite. Set lines into the night are picking up fish. Those that are mobile during daylight hours are finding good bites. The resorts have roads plowed out and the ice is great. Our advice: set up your wheel house for base camp and the night bite and bring your portables for the daytime. Move around and let those augers find the fish. Try to work the structure. I know you think Red doesn't have structure, but it does. Any small depth change over a course of 50 yards or so indicates structure. If it changes from 10 ft to 12 ft in 50 or so yards, that's structure. Its probably a small rock spine or sand ridge. Fish relate to those small changes on Red Lake. Find the areas that are concentrating fish and be mobile in those areas. Its all about finding fish right now. You can make them bite if you find them.
This same thing goes for Lake of the Woods also. Small depth changes and bottom transitions are holding active walleyes and saugers. Lake of the Woods has slowed down a bit too, but overall, anglers are still reporting a descent bite. A lot more saugers are being caught now then walleyes. You can't go wrong by going to LOTW. Contact Slims Resort for an up to date report or to book a cabin or sleeper fish house - 1800-243-2412.
Sunday, Colt, Dylan, and Topps were all on our home waters of Pokegama Lake. Topper had a great day spearing in the darhouse. The pike action on Pokeg has been very good. Pokeg is full of 5-10 pound pike and they are showing themselves. Colt and Dylan bounced around targeting walleyes. The bite was fair at best. This is the time of year when the walleye action slows down on these deep clear lakes. If you find active fish during prime time hours, you will catch them. The trick is finding active fish. Again, being mobile is important. Fish the structures that haven't been beat up. If you locate a hump or break that has houses on it or did previously, move on to one that hasn't been fished yet.
The crappie and bluegill action around the Grand Rapids area has been good. Small lakes are kicking out panfish and lots of anglers are reporting limits and quality fish.
Stay warm and good luck on the water!
There's no where we would rather be to celebrate the New Year than Slims Resort on Lake of the Woods. Last year was unbelievably fun so we booked the new year weekend early this year. Is it possibly a start to a new HLO tradition? Maybe! We always stay at Slims during all of our Lake of the Woods trips, but celebrating New Years there with our wives and the HLO family is going to have to be a yearly thing.
It was another great time. Fishing wasn't as fast and furious as we would have liked, but we caught a few fish. With this crew, the fish don't have to be snapping to have a good time. Smack talk, laughs, smiles, and stories go on all day long and with good friends and a crew like this, we always have a blast. That's exactly what took place this weekend. The walleye puzzle was hard to solve out across Pine Island so the drinks and laughs had to ring in the new year.
Slims Resort has everything a fishing group needs. Slims will bring you right out to your fish house or you can go out on your own like we did. After a long day on the ice, enjoy a mixed drink as you wait for a tasty meal at their Bar and Grill. If its New Years or ya wanna enjoy a couple more drinks then go for it. Slims has clean and comfortable cabins to rent and get some rest before you hit the water in the morning. Their customer service is awesome and the owners make you feel at home. We wouldn't stay anywhere else up at Lake of the Woods.
We wish everyone a Happy New Year. Bring on 2017!
Most smaller lakes around the Grand Rapids area have 12+ inches of ice. A few of these smaller bodies of water are starting to see truck travel. I wouldn't advice truck travel yet, but it's beginning. The larger lakes such as Wabana, Pokegama, Trout, Deer, etc have anywhere from 7-12 inches. Be careful on these deep clear lakes. ATVs and snowmobiles should be your best means of travel. Be advised for slush on all the lakes around the area especially with the recent snow.
pictured in the upper right corner of the blog is the New Year 2017 group on LOTW